The Long in Long Division

Back to school with common core math, an original play in one extremely trying act.

A: I need help!

L: [deep, deep sigh, knowing it is time for math homework]: K. What do you need help with?

A: [gestures vaguely at entire worksheet.]

L: [dies on inside]. K. Let’s see what we’ve got here.

A: [Immediately checks out, assuming mom is now completing entire worksheet on her behalf, even though this has never once happened.]

L: So, let’s start at the top. Name… Date… Neatly…

A: [does nothing neatly. Probably on purpose.]

L: Ahh, long division. Ok. Have you been working on that in school? Did you talk about it today?

A: I think so.

L: K. So, what did your teacher show you for these kind of problems?

A: I don’t know.

L: [deep, deep sigh from non-dead part of soul] K. Let’s work through one together. Writes down problem.


L: [feeling there is no other way it can be done, thinks bad things about modern school. And testing. And math generally. Also remembers taco meat on stove.] K. Can you tell me about how she does it?

A: I don’t remember it all. But it isn’t like that.

L: Well, this is how I learned how to do it. Let’s try it and see if it helps you remember. [Begins, slowly, remembering how to do it herself.**]

A: Why do you put the ‘6’ up there?

L: To carry it over to the 10s. When you multiply.

A: But *why*?

L: Because…if you do… you get the right answer.

A: My teacher doesn’t do that. Does she get the wrong answer? Or do you?

L: I bet we both get the right answer, but I don’t know exactly how she does it because I guess they changed it and you don’t remember the details. [curses common core, forgets about taco meat. Finishes and begins next problem.]

A: Wait, I need to sharpen the pencil. [Never returns.]

L: [Googles common core long division in the silence. It appears about the same, but with more unnecessary steps. Thinks of how hard it is to teach her shorter version, wonders what teachers are doing to themselves, feels superior to common core. Continues to forget taco meat.] Get back in here! I know that pencil is sharp now!

A: Sorry, I got distracted. [sits in chair upside down, drops pencil, breaks lead.] I need to go–

L: No. You can have my pencil. Try the next problem yourself. [27 minutes pass. Kitchen begins to smell vaguely charred.]

A: I need help! I can’t remember part.

L: You are close! What is 9×5?

A: 27.

L: No.

A: Oh! 28.

L: NO.

A: AAHHH, I don’t know.

L: [Understands better the current struggle with long division.] 45.

A: RIGHT! 45. [Writes nothing, disassembles ball point pen.]

L: [Suddenly remembers taco meat. Runs to stove, begins scraping. Calls over her shoulder, with annoyance] Let’s get this done! I want to be done with homework. Focus! FOCUS!

A: RIGHT! [Writes something that is not 45. Erases half-heartedly when this is pointed out.]

L: [Walks back over, leaving the taco meat in a bowl to get cold. Properly erases the not 45 while taking deep breaths, like yoga, but when you have lots of math and no time to go to yoga.] Ok, last part. [Repeats previous 37 steps, including the resharpening of the pencil.]

A: Done! CAN I WATCH SCREENS NOW? [Does not thank mom. Does not put away paper in homework folder. Does not put folder in backpack. Does not eat taco meat.]

END SCENE. Repeat tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. ***

**Because all this shit is done by computers now. My phone can do long division and we both know it. It is the unspoken truth of this dialog.

***Until June–when we focus only on CAN I WATCH SCREENS?

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