Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Math Wall

This is the formal term that an adult coined forr me to describe when a kid hits the point where math suddenly gets really hard to comprehend. And that kid decides to fake it until someone really smart uncovers the fact that you've been faking it. And that kid is J.
As a runner I could identify with it in terms of the point where you hit the wall in running that you have to break through and once you do that,  apparently you can run til you die. Usually I hit this wall in the 400 on the last turn. All the excitement of the gun going off and your adrenaline shooting you out of the blocks suddenly turns to blahness. Your legs turn into tar. You feel really far away from all the hoots and hollers of the crowd cheering you on.
You feel like  you are out in no man's land with no water or air to breath. Life suddenly just feels meaningless.
Then some fellow runners catch up to you, you realize you are not alone but in a race and they are passing you unless you can somehow get over this wall!
The Doors song comes to mind... Break on Through to the Other Side. But your side is hurting like heck and you imagine soldiers in training climbing some wall in their obstacle course and it looks perty darn near impossible as they clumsily try to climb tires and such with a ruck sack on their back.
So, mathematically speaking, if we can get J. past this Wall of Math that he has apparently encountered- he'll be able to comprehend and work math problems on a chalk board like Einstein. Or at least that's the hope.
It has caused him a lot of consternation and acting that he is understanding.But being the smart parent I am, I could tell he was faking it from a mile away.  
 I could identify with the struggle he is facing with math.  And I told him we'd tackle his math wall just like we do with sports.
 Do it over and over. Each day. Hit it hard and work through it until it becomes like second nature to dribble,  twirl and bank in a left handed lay up.
He didn't like the sounds of  repetitively doing left handed math problems at all. Once a math problem is done once; he wants to be done with it. Period. No fancy footwork, just get the problem done and never do it again. Ever.
Unfortunately I had to break it to him that these left handed mathmatical terms were going to pop up more in his life and have to be built upon, like a house, in order to do even more fancy footworkin'' math. And if he couldn't get the basics of the housebuilding math, well then his house wouldn't come together like it should. And at the rate he is going, it may look pretty Dr. Suess-ish with wings and towers here and there ready to topple over with the first gust of wind. 

So we are at this "wall".
 For a parent, teacher, or whoever is trying to help a kid up and over this wall it's like trying to move molasses up and over a hill on a hot day in July. Literally they turn into this blob sitting up to the table. Rather than sitting it's more of a blanket thrown onto a couch; their little body is in the chair, but more dead weight all over the chair. Moving this mass of a child all over the table where the piece of paper is that contains the math wall problems is harder than you'd think.
And carryin a wounded soldier outta the jungle under intense enemy fire seems easier than getting this kid to complete a math problem. 
Kids that hit the math wall also encounter the other problems. Pencils that break with the least amount of pressure. Or pencil sharpeners that break the lead off right as it is getting to the perfect point. So the little sharpener boy has to start all over- to his delight.

Just getting the kid to put the tip of lead to the paper is a monumental effort. All the kid wants is to get done and get to his pal's house so they can cause some sort of crazyiness. But, the kid is mathmatically challenged and so they can't do addition, subtraction or whatever to tell that if they would just start, work through the problems, they'd be done in half the time it took them to whine, lay all over the furniture, moan about the pencil problems and otherwise waste time. 
You can't explain this is clear enough terms however until they finish their last problem and the piece of paper they started out with is smudged and wadded up to look like a writer's first draft ready to be tossed into the trash bin.
Several days of this and not only can your mathmatically challenged child countdown til Friday, but you are looking forward to it with the same zeal that you had in school.

Luckily, this week, we saw some improvement. Lightbulb moments took place after a zillion times of showing him how to manever himself up and over this wall.
Why am I writing about this at such an earlly hour in the morning, on a weekend, when I could be sleeping? Because I just remembered something he said one night this week.
Sleep was getting closer and closer for each of us as we pillow talked. I'd been asking him about his day. Seeing how things were going in his little life that is currently full of Idaho history, ball games, girls that cause consternation, and other ins and outs of being a kid.
He shared some stories that included school, sports and the girl problems.. But then he came clean; poured out his inner most fear.  
J: "Everything is good except math. I feel safe and fine and then there is math."
Me: Math makes you feel 'unsafe'?
It was late and I was drifting but I thought it interesting math would cause this sort of a feeling but I was too tired to get into it.
J: "Yeh, I'll probably end up in China, making ........ (I can't remember what he said he'd be making) earning four cents an hour."
This was said just as we fell off the cliff of sleep.  It registered in my brain . made me laugh and smile to myself but I just now remembered it as I came out of sleep this morning and it has me intermittently chuckling.
So here I am in, early morning in and out of sleep- hurting in a new place, fumbling for the switch on my heating pad as I picture J. working in China earning four cents an hour.
Working in another country at age 9, would make you feel unsafe.Especially if your income was a mere four cents an hour.
I had to go into his room and give him a kiss. My hands felt around the bed in the darkness until I found him curled up at the foot of the bed. precariously close to falling  off the right edge.. I scooched him away from it, knowing I was taking him away from a warmed up wad of space so I  rearranged his quilt, grabbed the minky blanket that mom made for him as a kid and tucked him in safely on all sides. Then I kissed his cheek. Which is still soft
We' ve got a lot of walls to climb.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive