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?

The Modernization of School Projects

Last week I attended Ella’s school’s “Art Showcase” to learn about how the teachers incorporate arts and technology into the standard curriculum. Ella loves school, brings home cool art, and seems to be learning a lot, so I was prepared to be generally impressed. Any organization that wants to provide the paint and glitter and do all of the clean up has my complete blessing. After all, at home we mostly just color computer-printed pictures of the Disney Princess Palace Pet “Blondie” over and over, so we probably need artistic backup.

D2's growing collection of Palace Pet print-outs.
D2’s growing collection of Palace Pet print-outs.

The showcase was also going to be a good chance for me to learn more about architecture class, one of her “specials.” I have heretofore been skeptical about architecture class because I figured it:

  1. Was in reality a class to appease the increasing number of helicopter parents trying to prep children too early and too aggressively for college, a northern-Virginia trend I fight hard to beat down.
  2. Would actually teach her about architecture and she would love it and then I’d have multiple people in the family who want to ‘appreciate and explore’ architecture. MI doesn’t need a partner in that crime.

After just one fourth-grade demo, though, I was completely on board. It was amazing to watch 8 year-old kids making scale models of Fort James on design software to complement a social studies project. I felt proud–if obsolete–to be raising, driving, and providing snacks to such geniuses. I now look forward to the future house Ella will design for me on her island.

Then I went to the demo of technology in storytelling–in Ella’s class!  She was so excited and reminded me beforehand to “remember my smartphone!” (I figured she wanted to star in lots of pictures and I was ready to snap away. Nope.) The demo included a project by each kindergartener where they had used a computer drawing program to illustrate the story of the Three Little Pigs. The children each recorded themselves narrating the story and then they pulled everything together into a video. I needed my smartphone to scan the QR code to pull up her specific project. After I hunted around the Google Play store for a QR reader ap, which I had not used before, I was ready to watch:

So, wow, right? I shared the link with my family (saving well over two dollars in postage, since you used to have to mail such things) and then had a few good laughs with my brother and sister about how we used to make dioramas in shoe boxes and I once won a state-wide prize for building a model that used parts from a toilet.

This is kindergarten education now, huh? Well, I am not backing away, afraid. (Why would you even think that?) The art showcase was school’s shot across the bow. And I will prepare. I am downloading apps. I am going to start reading all the fliers that come home (sorry, dear teachers, that we missed the one about recommended costumes for today’s 100th day of school festivities. Just saw that. . . Don’t worry, I recycled it.) And I am thinking of enrolling myself in the new STEM preschool that just opened in my neighborhood so that I can keep up.

 Time to step up art with Mom:

The time we took a piece of yellow paper and. . . painted it blue.
A tribute to the time we took a piece of yellow paper and… painted it blue.