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Can’t Get A Square Foothold On The Subject

| Learning | November 14, 2016

(In high school, I was on the scholastic bowl team. For the most part, the team had been the same kids involved since sixth grade. In this story it’s my sophomore year of high school and one of my classmates joins the team for the first time. Even though it’s a really small school, none of us have had classes with him before, so we don’t know what he’s like. This happens one day in practice…)

Classmate: “[Coach], can you show us how to get the answer for B?”

Coach: “Sure.”

(She shows us how to get the answer for the math question, which, although a bit more complicated, is basically just figuring the area of a room. The answer is in square feet. It’s a fairly simple problem once she shows us.)

Me: “Oh, okay. That makes sense. I just forgot to do that one conversion. What about—”

New Teammate: “Wait, I still don’t get it. I haven’t done this kind of math before.”

Coach: “Okay, what part don’t you understand? I’m not a math teacher but I can try to help you understand, or [Classmate] can explain.”

(She tries to go through the problem a couple times, but he keeps saying he doesn’t understand.)

New Teammate: *getting frustrated* “I just don’t get it. So… how many feet are in a square foot?”

Coach: *caught off guard* “What? Do you mean you don’t understand how to figure the area by converting the outer dimensions into square feet?”

New Teammate: “I guess. But how many feet are in a square foot?”

Classmate: “That’s not a thing. A foot is one dimensional. A square foot is two dimensional.”

New Teammate: “Wait, what?”

Classmate: *goes to whiteboard and draws a line and a square* “See?”

New Teammate: *stares blankly at him* “So… there’s four feet in a square foot?”

Me: *face-palm* “No… no. That’s not it at all.”

(No matter what we tried, he didn’t get it. We gave up and continued with practice. He stopped coming after a few more practices.)

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