Thursday, February 21, 2008

Return of the Son of Algebra 1

Recently I have been helping young M with his math homework. This is problematic, because it has been a long time since I was a high school math whiz (11th grade math teacher to 17 year old Felicity: "You got all the hard problems right and all the easy ones wrong. That's not supposed to be possible.") and even when I was, I had serious, deep, intense problems with fractions. Those problems have persisted even unto the present day and thus, when I am presented with a page full of things that look like this - wait, I can't figure out how to make them look like that offhand and I don't feel like devoting any time to it, so imagine a horrible scary compound fraction, three and three hundred seventeen eight hundred forty sevenths x nuzzled right up next to an equally daunting fraction inside parentheses with a negative sign and maybe a y squared in there too - I come a bit unhinged. Terrible. Demonic. So, naturally, I took a deep breath, assumed I still knew how to do this and plunged right in, demonstrating many steps happily on scratch paper and coming up with answers that young M dutifully typed in.

Yeah, they were mostly wrong. Really wrong. Turns out I suck at math.

You see, the state of North Carolina, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that if a kid fails Algebra 1 not once but twice and thus must embark on yet a third try, it is not cost effective to supply him with an actual, living and breathing math teacher. Instead, he gets a virtual teacher in Chapel Hill who sends cheery emails and can be called on the classroom phone. Everything is online and the kids are there in a room with computers, doing math. Because it is just vaguely possible that high school students might not actually DO their math when confronted with a room full of computers with full internet access, they get low paid aides to supervise them.

So the other night, after it had been conclusively proved that Mom Cannot Do Fractions and Should Not Actually Be Allowed Near One if you want to have anything resembling a passing grade (the computer does not wish to hear about how it was your mom's fault you screwed up the homework) I told young M that I would not and could not do fractions and he should ask his teacher. Thus I was surprised when he tried to get me to do more last night.
"I told you to ask your teacher how to do this!" I said,
"I tried," said young M dolefully, "I emailed and I called but I couldn't get ahold of him."
"So did you ask the aide?" I said,
"She says she can't do fractions either."

Damn. I think we have found the basic flaw in this system. Anyone know any college students who want to earn a little (very little) income by tutoring a tenth grader in math and divers other subjects suitable to the education of a young gentleman?

1 comment:

Julie said...

i might just be able to help you out with this one. i was a math major in college (not too long ago) and recently applied for a few tutoring positions at private schools but i haven't actually done any tutoring in a while. i could use a little brushing up on my tutoring skills. e-mail me if you're interested.