Are you smarter than a 5th grader?
I got this voicemail today:
“Good afternoon this is So-and-so on behalf of middle school math department. I’m calling to remind you to be working on your summer math packet. I hope that you’re getting close to finishing it and have enjoyed your practice time…”
On the last day of school, my oldest had been assigned homework for the summer. Aside from summer reading, he was given four pages of 100 math problems and nine pages of more word problems than I felt like counting. I have nudged this normally proactive and intrinsically motivated child several times to do this homework. It’s a really sore subject around our house, and the only contentious thing that I can recall discussing with him all summer.
I did a triple take with this message before I decided to delete it. Clearly it wasn’t meant for me, since it’s not my summer math homework. (Technically it’s not mine, but I’ve probably looked at it, worried about it, and moved it around the house more than my son has. I even lost it once; currently it is in my room.) But there was no way I was going to torture my oldest with it. Who enjoys summer math homework?
Students are instructed to show their work, which is something we debate hotly every time we got out the homework in addition to whether or not he should do the challenge questions. The first set of challenge questions I looked at with him was interesting and fun (I tried to make it seem that way, anyway); the second set was horrifying. I couldn’t imagine how any 5th grader could figure out the answer to one of the questions. I hoped it wasn’t just me, so I brought it up with a couple of other moms at baseball one night and we all agreed that it was, indeed, an extra challenge.
Tonight while The Bigs were at football, my youngest and I were having dinner and talking about kindergarten and his first day of school.
“I hate school,” he told me. I wondered where he got that idea. Thanks a lot So-and-so from the middle school math department.
After football practice, shower, and snack, I asked my oldest if he wanted to look at his math homework with me.
“No!” he snarled, and looked at me like I was an alien who had just arrived from a galaxy far far away.
“Do you want me to organize a ‘math party’ with your friends?” The helpful hints in the math packet suggest “you might consider having your child complete the packet with a friend – perhaps a “math study group” would be in order!!” (Note two exclamation points for extreme emphasis.)
“No!!” he looked alarmed. “They’ve probably all done it already, anyway.” The poor kid is in his own personal hell with this homework. Thanks a lot So-and-so from the middle school math department!
“I just want to hang around with you, mom.” So we sat in my room and looked at a photo album with pictures of him from babyhood through preschool graduation, while his brothers watched a Jackie Chan movie from the BlockBuster kiosk. I imagine that starting middle school is probably daunting enough in itself without the summer math homework looming on the horizon.
Extra challenge problem #1 (optional)
Each of the numbers 0 to 9 is represented by one of the letters A to J. Figure out which letters represent which numbers. As you find a value for each letter, write it in the key.
E-F = B
J-I = F
E+E = FH
E+E = FH (I am not sure if this is a mistake or we are intentionally being thrown a curve ball here, but why repeat the same equation?)
I+J = FE
GEG- FDA = EAA
DA+H = DA
C = (not actually on the list, again are we being thrown a curve ball? It can be calculated by process of elimination, though.)
Extra challenge problem #2 (not optional)
School starts two weeks from tomorrow. My son has seven pages left to finish. How many more arguments are we going to have before the first day of school?
Thanks a lot So-and-so from the middle school math department!