Wednesday, February 24, 2010


One of my kids is of the age that he is learning some pretty conceptual mathematics. Frankly, I was never a math genius, which is why I chose law as a career.

I know I sound like my father when I talk about how difficult of subjects they are teaching in elementary school nowadays and how we didn't learn "that" (whatever "that" is at the moment) until we were much older. Often times, we have to contact his teacher to figure out what a certain math word problem is seeking. Mrs. El Fisho is much better at the math stuff than I, but sometimes I am able to assist. Usually with internet intervention.

But tonight, I was the star. El Fisho Jr. was really upset at a certain problem, and Mrs. El Fisho didn't get it either.

I had seen this problem before. This exact problem. In the mid-1980's, on the LSAT (Law School Admission Test or some bullshit like that). I think they finally stopped testing for math after I took the test (naturally) but when I took them they had various math questions that challenged me.

So I took prep classes to get good scores on the SAT and the LSAT, as standardized testing is not my forte. But through cramming for these tests 'lo so many years ago, I recognized the problem immediately. Before I even had a chance to run through the formula, I knew the answer was 24. It just popped into my head.

And no, again, I am not Rainman. I am anti-math man. In fact, the only math professor I ever came close to comprehending was my college algebra prof Dr. Lam, who was on load from some east asian university to U of H. Poor Dr. Lam could barely speak-ah-the-english, and although I've grown up around folks from different cultures and international locales with accents, I had difficulty with his diction, pronounciations and grammer.

I just couldn't understand Dr. Lam. He did, however, immediately upon arriving in Texas, direct the cab driver to the nearest cowboy boot emporium, chosing a variety of boots that he liked, and wore well-polished cowboy boots thereafter every day, and of course you had to appreciate that as a Texas.

Amazingly, even though I could not verbally follow him at times, he was the best math teacher I ever had. He could EXPLAIN well in writing, making sense of formulas with tricks and using less shortcuts and longer methods to work through and double check equations.

I made straight A's. Top 'o the class. But even I knew it was a fluke, and Dr. Lam wasn't teaching any other upper math classes, and I knew enough to know that the reason I did so good was because Dr. Lam was good at explaining. So Dr. Lam, if you're out there, you were a great teacher some 32 years ago.

In any event, I was able to look very smart when solving the homework problem tonight. I instantly worked through the formula, diagraming the rectangle for my son, and he worked the problem himself once he understood what they wanted to know.

Homework. I worry about the stress that is being put on kids, and especially my kid, about learning a bunch of crap for the TAKS test. The stress they place on these kids is phenomenal, to the point of having pro-TAKS pep-rallys before the test. My youngest may end up in private school yet.

realized my elementary school child is, some 25 years later, being taught things that I learned in high school and college, and then prepped for in prep classes for the SAT and LSAT.

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