Friday, September 28, 2012

Old Table, New Math

We sat for over two hours at the dining room table. Jack was at the Ryder Cup and I was left alone, on September 25th, with two third graders and 4 pages of magic squares.

They began in first grade, this cruel mind challenging math odyssey meant to torment the parents who might not have done so well in math when they were in school. I went to Kate's teacher, holding the paper in front of me and said "tell me, did I learn this when I was 6? I have no idea how to do this", and she assured me that this was all new. My parents were not made to feel inadequate and small by the numbers lined in a square, somehow totaling the same seemingly random number. 

It doesn't seem that long ago that I sat at this table with my dad, struggling to make sense of X , trying to understand why a letter was suddenly appearing in a number sentence. He worked patiently but to be fair, he wasn't too successful. That X still confounds me; I dread the day it creeps into the folders of my budding mathematicians.

My dad would enjoy this, watching me struggle with his two granddaughters, hoping that they both inherited their father's aptitude for math and not mine (which did not happen).  As a parent I now know how hard it must have been, to watch me look at a page of algebra as if someone had put an essay in German in front of me and asked for a translation. As a daughter I know he would laugh at my want to tear my hair out when simple division elicits a completely blank stare.

And so we sat on September 25th, not toasting my dad over steaks with big glasses of wine as has been the case in years past, but at the same exact dining room table where I sat not so long ago, quietly toasting his memory with magic squares. He would have liked to have been there, and I could certainly have used help with the math.

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