Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I got it and so did she!

When I first began teaching my daughter, she caught on to most things fairly quickly. The one area where she struggled was math. I on the other hand, excelled in math. Our difference was the cause of some very frustrating moments. After one lesson she finally said in exasperation, "Mom, I don't get it and you gotta get that I don't get it."

I got it.

Math was not going to be her passion in life. In fact, it wasn't even going to be a passing interest. She viewed her assignments as something to be endured like a root canal. Necessary but painful. I tried to encourage her. I told her that if she continued on she would learn to think in a whole new way and that it was good to struggle sometimes. She just rolled her eyes in an expression of "whatever".

Clearly, she didn't get it.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when I came home from running a few errands. This same daughter was sitting at the computer putting the finishing touches on a blog post. The subject was based on an article by Richard Cohen titled What Is the Value of Algebra. He was giving advice to a struggling high school senior, Gabriela, about math. Specifically about algebra. He said,
Gabriela, sooner or later someone's going to tell you that algebra teaches reasoning. This is a lie propagated by, among others, algebra teachers. Writing is the highest form of reasoning. This is a fact. Algebra is not. The proof of this, Gabriela, is all the people in my high school who were whizzes at math but did not know a thing about history and could not write a readable English sentence.
I had read the article earlier in the day. I swallowed hard. Great now my daughter has a famous columnist encouraging or rather discouraging her in her study of math. I began to read her post Life Without Algebra? I think not. To my amazement here is what she said,

I think Mr. Cohen misses the point of algebra and all learning for that matter. It's not just about numbers, theories, or simultaneous equation that matter. The usefulness of studying algebra isn't determined by who actually uses it.

You know, this may come as a surprise, but I have already used algebra.

Life involves taking the complex and unknown and simplfying it. Algebra has taught me how to look at a problem logically and solve it. Perhaps even more valuable, it's proved that I can actually struggle for a little while before I arrive at an answer. A painful but benefical truth that is better learned in algebra that at some point later in life when the consequences of giving up are higher.

Admittedly, I am not destined to be an engineer, scientist, or involved in any other analytical field. I am more likely to find myself balancing a family meal than an algebraic equation. However, my future is still an "unknown". Algebra has taught me how to persevere and solve for that unknown now matter the absolute value of a x, y or z.

After ten years she got it!

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