Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Math League

Now I ask you, whose kid shows up to the Math League meeting with no pencil?

Mine of course.

Jeffrey was invited to participate in the 4th grade math league. Which means every two weeks he is given 30 questions which he is supposed to finish in 30 minutes and then the group gets together and talks about the answers for an hour.

For most kids this would seem more like a punishment than an honor and knowing Jeffrey (who hates to sit quietly for any length of time) one would assume he would hate it.

Quite the contrary. He was ecstatic at being able to do math problems that (in his words) weren't boring.
And in my words weren't easy.

I was extremely helpful when he brought me the page to correct. I pointed out an answer that I thought he had done incorrectly and helpfully suggested a different (wrong) answer. It turned out THAT was problem he was called on to explain.

You're welcome son. (OK in my defense I misunderstood the question which is what they wanted you to do and I fell right into their trap).

So we arrived at the first meeting and discovered that no matter how smart you think YOUR kid is, there is always another kid out there who makes yours look like Pee Wee Herman. Which in Jeffrey's case isn't a far stretch since he can do the whole "Tequila" dance with surprising accuracy.

Yes, we are very proud.

There was one little boy (Oliver) who stood up and gave an extremely articulate explanation of how he solved one of the problems.  "I understood that potentially every answer could be correct, but I realized that if I took the first number from the equation and subtracted it from the last number in the equation, then all the other numbers cancelled themselves out, so without having to do much more work I ascertained that the only answer possible had to be 0."

Jeffrey sat nodding away as if he arrived at the answer in exactly the same manner. I happen to know for a fact that when he was working on that particular problem he was using his fingers to count and subtract and it took him the better part of 5 minutes to arrive at the answer. But in his defense, he did get it right.

I think the whole experience will be good for Jeffrey. In much the same way taking karate is good for him. It will teach him to slow down a bit and focus. Something he won't do on his own.

Of course what really made him agree to do the Math League wasn't that he could get together with a bunch of intellectuals twice a month, or that it would look good on his college resume. It was because all the kids who participate get a trophy at the end of the year.

When I asked him if he enjoyed himself and he said it was fun, he immediately followed up with "I AM going to get a trophy for all this right?".

I assured him that no matter how he did, as long as he showed up at the meetings and tried his best he would indeed receive a trophy.

"Well thats good because I wouldn't want to do all this hard work and thinking and have nothing to show for it in the end."

I feel the same way. Where's my trophy?

No comments: