Thursday, October 18, 2012

Barbie + Einstein = ?

I love helping Katie with her homework.  Even math.  In principle, I hate math.  All those pesky absolutes, certainty there is a "right" answer.  Life is not like that.  Life is one big giant maybe.  I prefer to wallow in the ambiguous muck of humanities.  I'm fascinated by human development.  I love watching my daughter's brain churn right before my eyes.  So I put aside my personal feelings about math and cheer my daughter on as she briskly computes these abstract concepts.  I sit back and smile, hoping she continues crossing the bridge that divides math and humanities, enjoying herself no matter which side she finds herself.

And don't tell me it's just a girl thing, that soon she will fill up her brain with our culture's pink propaganda and whine, "Math class is tough" like Teen Talk Barbie.  Just because she's a girl and that's what girls do.  I mean, yeah, math is tough for some people.  Some perfectly smart people whose brains just don't work that way.  Like me and my bachelor's degree lacking ass.  I can't pass College Algebra, which for some reason is a requirement to get a Literature, Language, and Writing degree at the state college.  But not all women have the same brain.  My mom loves math.  Mom's a retired accountant.  She still does her husband's bookkeeping and files their complicated taxes.  For fun.  She enjoys doing those goddamned Sudoku puzzles that make me want to rip my eyeballs out of their sockets and ask God, why, oh why, for the love of humanity, would you create some people's brains that actually enjoy the sick sadism that is Sudoku?  And then also create other people's brains with such an intolerance to math?  But at the same time, I'm cool with it.  Remember, I'm the one who likes the unanswerable questions.  And wouldn't the world be a boring place if we were all like me?

So far, I've kept my aversion to math a secret from Katie.  I don't want to influence her aversions.  I don't like bananas, but I still fed them to her when she was first eating solid foods because I know they're nutritious and that even though I think they're fucking disgusting lots of sweet widdle babies love them.  What's hideous to me might be delicious to you.

The funny thing is, I think I'm learning as much from helping Katie with her math homework as she is.  A couple of times she's shown me her worksheets and I honestly didn't understand what they're asking her to do.  Like last night.  I didn't know what the "PT+" and "TA-" and "C-" meant in question three on this worksheet:

Katie explained, "PT means put together, so you add them together.  TA means take away, so you subtract them.  C means compare."

Hey, that makes sense.  Even I can understand that.  Maybe this math stuff isn't so bad after all.

Albert Einstein said, "If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself."  In my six years of parenting Katie, that is a formula I am certain is right.  But it goes the other way too.  If your six year old can explain it to you, you both understand.