## Middle School Math and Life

**WORDS FROM W.W.**** April 25, 2019**

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“Middle school math is the dumbest thing!” a young lady in eighth grade informs me with conviction and angst. Her eyebrows flow together in a sloped look of frustration.

“Why is it dumb?” I ask, not thinking of the redirected venom that will now come my way.

“What do I care about square roots?”

I have no comeback. I know there’s reasons, but they are all escaping me. If the final answer of Jeopardy happened to be “Square Root” I wouldn’t know what the question was!

“I’m sure you’ll use it someway.”

“How? It’s dumb!”

“Well…”

“You can’t think of an answer, can you?”

“I…I…!” Truth be told, I was a math whiz until the alphabet got intimately engaged to numbers, like a mail order bride to arrived and couldn’t be returned. In my 8th grade class the teacher asked what 28 multiplied by 23 was and I popped up with the answer first. I could figure it out in my head in a snap.

“644!”

The next year “a” and “b” suddenly started hanging around with 1, 2, and 3, and I couldn’t even remember my own name.

“Some things in life just aren’t clear to us until later on.”

“That sounds like something an adult would say!”

“I am! A very old adult, in fact!”

“The only way I’ll use math in life is in spending money, stuff like that.”

“I hope that’s not the only way you use math. What about if you were baking a cake and you needed to measure amounts of ingredients?”

“I’m never going to bake a cake. I don’t like cake.”

“What do you like?”

“Packaged cookies and store-bought candy.”

I have no comeback for that one. This is a student whose diet consists of processed food and wrapped up sugar. “How about if you bought a house and were trying to figure up how much interest you would pay if the interest rate was at a certain level?”

“I can’t think about that. I’ll be living with my parents for the next decade or so, and then I won’t be able to buy a house because I’ll have to pay off my school loans for the rest of my life and beyond!”

“You sound pessimistic about math and life.”

“No! I just don’t like math. It’s dumb and stupid and I’d rather have a tooth pulled.”

“Well…you WILL use math in life! Believe me!”

“Life doesn’t have to be that complicated! You get up in the morning, you get dressed, you do your thing, and there you go! Math is dumb and my class is dumb!

“So…is it the class, the fact that you have it the first period of the day, the students in your class, or something else?”

“EVERYTHING!” she answers exasperated.

“I tell ya’ what!” I have a brainstorm coming. “You tell me something that is a part of your life, or will be a part of your life, and I’ll tell you how math is related to it.”

“Snapchat!”

“Okay! Ahhh…there’s one for you! How about something else, like some daily routine or job you are asked to do?”

“Snapchat is a daily routine for me!”

“Okay, besides Snapchat.”

“Harry Potter!”

“I…don’t really know anything about Harry Potter, but I guess you would need to know how far you are in reading one of the books…like halfway, or two-thirds done…how about that?”

“That’s lame! You read it until you’re done and that’s it! What’s the point of saying you’re half done? The best part is towards the end anyway, not some fraction point! That doesn’t add up!”

“Was that a math joke you just made?”

“No!” she responds, clueless about her unintended humor.

“Well, you’ve just got to trust me on this one! Math will be important to you in a lot of ways!”

“Sure!” she says with cynicism. “I’ll probably use it to figure out how many houses Santa Claus has to get to each minute on Christmas Eve, or how many hops the Easter Bunny makes in an hour?”

“Now you’re getting it!” I say as I smile.

She sneers at me. In her eyes I’m one of THEM, an unreasonable adult who has been tainted by the equations of life!

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**Tags:** Algebra, Math, math teachers, middle school, middle school boys, middle school girls, middle school math, middle school teachers, middle schoolers, numbers, Square root

April 25, 2019 at 8:46 pm

Bill, this is Sue’s “other half” (is that a fraction?). I will be 68 years old this summer and can say, without a doubt, that NEVER in my life have I needed to know a square root for anything except a math class. Yes, I have used math plenty, but basic math has served me just fine. As an appraiser I always told people that my math brain was on my desk hooked to an outlet. I would have had a difficult time trying to convince that eighth grader the value of square roots and the use of letters in math problems.

Bob

April 26, 2019 at 1:31 am

Bob, it’s hard to change the mind of an 8th Grade girl anyway!