Confession: I can’t do fourth grade math. To be fair, Elena is in the gifted and talented program this year, so what that really means is that I can’t do fifth grade math. Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound much better.
Take this problem that came home on a worksheet recently:
You need 1/2 cup of sugar to make a three-layer cake.
How much sugar would you need for a one-layer cake?
The real problem here, besides the fact that fractions frighten me, is who in their right mind would want to make less cake? Can we at least make these problems more realistic, as in “how does one make more cake?”
Elena was having trouble with that particular problem, too. She asked me how I would solve it. Now, we’re not allowed to help much with this particular worksheet that finds its way home to terrorize me weekly. The teacher wants to see what they know, if they can creatively problem-solve, and to gauge the sanity level of her students’ parents. So I gave an honest answer:
“The first way I’d solve the problem is to admit there really isn’t a problem in the first place. A three-layer cake is a joy to behold (although I’d question eating one that only contained a mere 1/2 cup of sugar) and should not be reduced. If, however, my math teacher was insistent that one-layer was the way to go, I’d take my 1/2 cup and eyeball 1/3 of it. That’s how I roll in the kitchen. And probably a big indicator of why my cakes never turn out right.”
Thankfully Mike, our resident math smarty-pants, is usually nearby for help. He gets the same visceral reaction from hearing me talk about fractions that I get from seeing them. Just the other day Elena, sitting at the kitchen table, asked about a different math problem. I merely said the words, “Let me take a look . . . “ and from the upstairs office Mike yelled, “That sounds like math! Step away from the child!”
So yeah, fifth grade math is out of my league. I’m okay with that. The way I see it, I just got out of the next 8 years of helping out with math homework. Like we often say about our dear Eli:
“It’s okay, I have other talents!”