Monthly Archives: November 2013

Are You Smarter Than a Kindergartener?

kinder math

Recently, while “helping” my youngest son with his first semester kindergarten homework, I came across a word problem asking how many bases three cylinders and a pyramid possess. Admittedly, math is not my forte (I might not have a forte), but I can answer that: four.     


            “That’s not right, dad; it’s seven. We learned that in my class.”


            “Seven?” I said. Oh, I get it—they’re (math users, an epidemic) counting each face as a possible base. I counted up the sides and got eleven this time (either it was a rectangular pyramid or I don’t count well, probably the latter). Despite my poor math skills, I know seven is not eleven.


            His teacher hasn’t graded our homework yet, but I’m fairly certain he’s right (I vaguely remember confirming his answer via the Internet.) I thought math was supposed to be logical. I thought bases are on the bottom. Even if I stood on my head, I wouldn’t consider that the bottom of me (some people have made statements to the contrary…) And if I do consider the math top to be the math bottom, shouldn’t I apply that process consistently to cylinders and pyramids? I hate math now more than ever.


            Regardless if my son is right or wrong, this is not a good sign. How am I going to help him with his third grade homework, the quadratic equations? Teach him how to hide the calculator? I can’t say, “What are you going to do? Carry a calculator everywhere you go?” He’ll probably carry a computer in his ear that makes my laptop look like one of those contraptions from the fifties that filled a whole room (but you still couldn’t play Gorf on it).


            I guess that’s what tutors are for. Hell, maybe he can teach me the math I can’t remember.




No Se Nada


I’m from Reno, Nevada. Here in Reno, we have a respectable Latino community, which provides us the opportunity to learn and readily practice a second language: Spanish. I’m trying to learn Spanish, and though I’m terrible at it, I teach what I can to my boys because they are language sponges right now. I wish I were fluent and could instruct them in Spanish, now, while they are so receptive to learning. Zeus knows, it gets harder to learn new languages as one ages (for me, anyway, it was. Is. Read my blog and you’ll see I struggle with English, too.)

I often wonder why, then, people complain about things like Spanish screens on the ATM, or receiving a letter with English on one side and Spanish on the other. Why wouldn’t someone want to increase his or her knowledge, learn another language? I bring this up because it’s a point of contention, and not just at Klan rallies anymore. People really get angry about this kind of thing.

The most prevalent argument I’ve heard is that if someone goes to a country, they should learn the language. I have trouble understanding, though I know it happens, why a person would resist learning the official language of a country—but if he or she does—that’s no one else’s concern. Let them flounder like Americans in a foreign country. English is tough to learn, and writing signs and letters in the native language of what will soon be the majority of people seems like a good idea to me. I know seeing the Spanish beneath the English on a sign helps me better understand Spanish. Many countries have dual languages; I don’t see why a country that prides itself on being a “melting pot” of cultures shouldn’t.

If you are one who gets angry when foreign letters happen across your line of sight, clogging up your ATM screen, or you have to listen, God forbid, to someone to say a few words in another language, you’re probably having trouble reading this anyway. Maybe that’s it: English is so hard for you already, the extra information in Spanish shorts out those last two brain cells struggling to keep your lungs working and you regularly pass out while trying to read.

Don’t feel bad. That happens to me, too, when I do math in my head.