Category Archives: Teaching

Modern Math

Math session with a 1st grader…

Me: “Ok, so we’re going to do some fun math problems today, all involving ducks! Because I know how much you love birds. The questions are going to start off super easy, but they build off each other and become more challenging as we go.”

Kid: “Ok.”

Me: “So first question– there are three ducks. Each duck is 1 foot in length. If the three ducks go swimming together in a line, beak to tail, how long is the duck-line?”

Kid: “Wait, so each duck is ONE foot long?”

Me: “Yes.”

Kid: “And there are THREE of them?”

Me: “Yes.”

Kid: “Ok let me think.” (starts whisper counting to himself, goes way past 3)

Me: “Woah woah, you’re already counting too high. There are only THREE ducks.”

Kid: “I know I know…” (keeps counting, now silently, but keeping track on fingers)

Me: “This is supposed to the super-easy first problem, it doesn’t really require finger counting.”

Kid: “I’ve almost got it, hold on.”

Me: “Ok I’m trying to help you but you’re not listen—”

Kid: “Shh shhh wait let me finish.”

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Kid (finally): “15! The answer is 15 feet.” (crosses arms, super proud of self)

Me: “What? No. Not even close. There are only 3 ducks and they are each ONE foot!”

Kid: “Yeah but you gotta have 6 feet between each duck or they’ll all get corona.”

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Plus That

Today I was in a tutoring session with a 6th grader who I have always considered to be very mature for her age. She’s always aware of the latest current events and it seems her parents don’t try to censor the content she consumes online. Just last week we had a very in-depth conversation about George Floyd (she’s horrified and heartbroken) and Trump’s handling of the coronavirus (she’s disgusted).

As a teacher, I of course don’t play favorites, so needless to say she’s my favorite.

Anyway, given her maturity and general awareness of horrible shit in the world, I was surprised when, given an assignment to invite 4 famous people (past or present) to dinner and write the dialogue that would ensue, she immediately chose Michael Jackson as her first guest.

Me (treading lightly): “Oh. That’s, umm…an interesting choice.”

Kid: “Yeah I mean he’s a LEGEND. And a musical genius. I bet he’d have a LOT of interesting stuff to say. He’s like one of the most successful and best-selling artists ever!”

Me (realizing she is clearly unaware of the controversy surrounding him): “Well…I can’t really argue with that. So ok, Michael Jackson. Who else would you choose?”

Kid: “Barack Obama, Malala, Greta Thunberg, and Martin Luther King Jr.”

Me: “Oh! I love those choices! But remember you can only have four guests total.”

Kid: “Ok, I guess then get rid of Michael Jackson.”

Me (relieved): “I agree.”

Kid: “He doesn’t really fit in with the rest of my choices. Like, he’s not a hero or an activist or anything.”

Me: “Right. Exactly. I was thinking the same thing.”

Kid: “Yeah.”

(Silence)

Kid: “Plus he raped all those kids.”

 

Infinity

Kid: “What’s the highest number?”

Me: “There is no highest number. Numbers keep going and going and going…they are infinite.”

Kid: “What’s infinite?”

Me: “Having no end. Numbers go to infinity…”

Kid: “Then that’s the end. Infinity.”

Me: “Well, no– the very definition of infinity is ‘no end.'”

Kid: “So infinity is NOT the highest number?”

Me: “Infinity isn’t actually even a number, it’s a concept.”

Kid: “What’s a concept?”

Me: “Like, an idea…”

Kid: “So infinity is the highest idea?”

Me: “Well, no, there’s no ‘highest idea.’ That’s not a thing.”

Kid: “I don’t get it. What’s infinity then?”

Me: “It’s hard to explain.”

Kid: (silence)

Me: (prays conversation is over)

Kid: “So like, is there an infinity and one?”

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Small

Kid: “How come you never wear your big diamond ring anymore?”
Me: “My engagement ring? I do. Just not all the time. I take it off when I go to the gym and sometimes forget to put it back on before I leave for the day.”
Kid: “Is your husband mad that you don’t wear it?”
Me: “No.”
Kid: “But now no one knows you have a husband! It’s like you’re not even married.”
Me: “Well, that’s not true. But regardless, I always wear my wedding band.”
Kid: “Huh?”
Me (point to wedding ring on left hand) “This. This is the ring my husband gave me at our wedding.”
Kid: “But that’s so small!!”
Me: “It’s not that sm—“
Kid: “No one will be able to see that it’s so small!”
Me: “Ok I mean I disagree but–”
Kid: “I CAN’T EVEN SEE IT AND I’M SITTING RIGHT HERE IT’S SO SMALL.”

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Remind Me to Thank Your Dad

Finishing a math lesson with a 5 year old….

Me: “Any questions?”

Kid: “Yeah. When that baby comes out of your vagina, is it going to hurt?”

Me: “Excuse me?”

Kid: “Babies come out of vaginas, you know. My dad told me when I asked him how your baby was going to get out of you. He said it would come out of your vagina.”

Me: “Well, remind me to thank your dad. But what I meant was, do you have any MATH questions.”

Kid: “Ummmm…let me think.”

Me: “We just did a whole lesson about how to tell time and read a calendar. Do you have questions about THAT?”

(long pause)

Kid: “Oh! Yes. How many days on the calendar…”

Me: “Ok, that’s better…”

Kid: “…until that baby comes out of your vagina?”

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Pretty Much

Kid and I are researching quotes for his paper about community action, and we come across a good quote by Nelson Mandela.

Me: “Ohhh, that’s a perfect one to use. Do you know who Nelson Mandela is?”

Kid: “Yeah of course.”

Me: “Oh, I’m impressed. I wouldn’t necessarily think a kid your age would know about him.”

Kid: “Well, my dad listens to his music all the time.”

Me: “Ummm…his music? Nelson Mandela was not a musician, as far as I know…”

Kid: “Yes, he’s a country singer!”

Me: “I think you’re thinking of someone else…”

Kid: “You know, (singing) ‘On the road again, Just can’t wait to get on the road again….'”

Me: “Oh, honey, no. That’s Willie Nelson. Not Nelson Mandela. They are two very VERY different people. Nelson Mandela ended apartheid in South Africa.”

Kid (pondering): “Ok but otherwise they’re pretty much the same.”

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