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Maybe If I’d Learned That Song I’d Be Better At Math

, , , , , , , , | Learning | April 11, 2022

This took place in 2001. I was nine years old and in third grade. We were just starting to learn multiplication and were learning the multiples of threes. My teacher warned us that from here on out, the multiplications were going to get harder and she didn’t want us to feel overwhelmed, so she came up with a song to help us remember the solutions to multiplying threes.

Teacher: “I am going to sing a song that’ll help you memorize all the multiples of three up to the number thirty. I sing this song every year to my students and I’ve had past students, including middle schoolers and even high schoolers, who come back to visit me tell me they remember this song. Are you ready?”

Us: “Yes!”

Teacher: “Three, six, nine, the monkey drank wine; twelve, fifteen, eighteen, we’re going skating; twenty-one, twenty-four, twenty-seven, we’re almost to heaven; thirty!”

Our class erupted in laughter at the silliness of the song, and we asked her to sing it again which she did.

Classmate #1: “Mrs. [Teacher], there’s no way we’re going to remember this when we get older. It’s too silly!”

Teacher: “You might say that now, but I’m telling you, I have students from many years ago come up to me and say one of their favorite memories was learning this song and they still use it to this day!”

Classmate #2: “Yeah, right!”

Fast forward to today. I just turned thirty and I taught my nine-year-old nephew, who is just starting to learn how to multiply, this song my teacher sang all those years ago. It might sound silly, but it turns out she was right when she said we would never forget that song!

Math Turns People Into Monsters

, , , , | Right | April 9, 2022

Client: “Okay, I’ve totaled everything and I’ve come up with $543,698. Double-check my math.”

Me: “I got $562,552.”

Client: “That’s wrong. Do it again.”

I add all the numbers again.

Me: “Okay, $562,552.”

Client: “What? Now we have three different numbers!”

Me: “No, we don’t. That’s the same–”

Client: “Stop talking! You’re doing something wrong. Just concentrate on the counting, and the numbers won’t come out so screwy.”

Me: “I’m pretty sure it’s $562,552.”

Client: “Now you’re just pulling numbers out of the air. Do the math again!”

I redo everything from scratch.

Me: “Okay, the total is… $562,552, definitely!”

Client: “See, that’s what I had the first time!”

This Is Why We Used Cheerios In My Class

, , , , , | Learning | April 8, 2022

I was in first grade in the mid-1990s. My class is currently learning addition and just about everyone is counting on their fingers. We are working on a math sheet in class and I finish mine pretty quickly.

I peer over at the girl sitting next to me and notice that some of her answers are wrong. Upon further observation, I see that she, much like the others, is using her fingers to count, which is fine until she goes to count the fingers on her next hand. When adding numbers such as three and three, she will start with three fingers up on one hand and then raise the other two fingers on her hand for the next three. Then, she moves to her other hand for the last one, but the thumb on her other hand goes up (or out, rather) at the same time as her pointer finger. Then, she counts how many fingers she actively has up. She then writes seven under the total line.

Being the outgoing and kind-hearted child that I am, I try to point out what she is doing wrong.

Me: “Hey, [Girl], that answer’s wrong.”

Girl: *Defensive immediately* “No, it’s not!”

Me: “I can show you. See, when you count—”

Girl: “Leave me alone, [My Name]. You’re doing it wrong!”

Me: “But, when you count on your fingers, you’re—”

She slams her pencil down and puts her hands up near my face with three fingers up on her right hand and her left hand in a closed fist.

Girl: “I’m not doing it wrong, see?! One.” *Her right pinky finger goes up* “Two.” *Her right thumb goes up* “THREE!” *Pointer AND thumb on her left hand go up* “See?! Seven fingers! Three plus three is seven! I’m not wrong! Leave me alone!”

It was at that moment, at the ripe old age of six, that I learned that it’s pointless to argue with a stupid person.

Decoding The Teacher’s Intentions

, , , , , , , | Learning | March 26, 2022

In the spring of 2020, I was in my fourth year of college and finally got around to taking the freshman stats class for my program. The first class went well, as the instructor was nice enough; he was a grad student excited about teaching his first class on his own. He showed us how to download a program I had never heard of, all while singing its praises and talking about how eager the math department was to start using the program and how they planned on implementing it for most math classes going forward.

It took a long time to download and he wasn’t able to show us how to use the thing until the next class period in two days, so I decided to open it up and dink around with it. The navigation was next to nonexistent and there was no graphing function; even inputting the simplest of math problems resulted in errors.

When I arrived at the second class, there seemed to be a bit of tension in the room, especially when the instructor opened the program and started typing equations using nomenclature unlike anything I had ever seen before in my life. There was murmuring at the tables as students confirmed to each other what they had been suspecting: he was coding.  

I broke into a cold sweat as the girl beside me followed along. Did I accidentally enroll in a stats class for Computer Science Majors? Was there a major shift in high school requirements for math in the four years since I had graduated? 

Thankfully, my panic was short-lived as literally everyone else began to inform the instructor that they had no idea what the heck he was doing. 

The next period, we were provided with detailed instructions on how to use the program, but it surprised no one when it was dropped from the syllabus entirely within the month. 

I am still puzzled by their intentions now, almost two years later. Did they really think they would be able to teach us both coding and stats in one semester? Or did they think that every eighteen- and nineteen-year-old in the country knew the basics of computer programing? Our instructor took it all in stride, at least, and adapted without complaint.

Being A Little Squirrely With The Facts

, , , , , , | Learning | March 22, 2022

During our Easter break in my sixth-grade year, my grandmother finds an orphaned squirrel kit and watches it for a couple of days before she can find a place that can properly care for it.

Upon going back to school, I tell a girl that I am semi-friends with about it. I don’t recall how or why this happens, but I decide to mess with her and manage to convince her that squirrels lay eggs. Looking back, I realize this was kind of mean, but I was eleven and figured she was most likely pretending to believe me or that she’d bring it up to someone like her parents who would set her straight in the off chance she wasn’t. I promptly forget about our conversation within a few days since she doesn’t bring it up again.

Fast forward about a month, we’re learning about the major animal classifications and we’re on the section about mammals. 

Teacher: “With the exceptions of the platypus and echidna, mammals do not lay eggs, but instead give birth to live young… Yes, [Girl]?”

Girl: “What about squirrels?”

At this point, I kind of freeze in horror as I realize what’s happening.

Teacher: “Squirrels?”

Girl: “Yeah, [My Name] told me they lay eggs, too!”

Of course, now the room’s attention shifts from her to me, and I’m barely able to squeak out a response.

Me: “I didn’t think you actually believed me!”

Poor [Girl] looked utterly mortified, and our teacher looked like she wanted to retire right then and there. [Girl] didn’t talk to me for the rest of the time we attended school together. I can’t say that I blame her.