Fail!, Life with Kids

Tales of a Fifth-Grade Nothing (with Apologies to Judy Blume)

I knew it would happen eventually. I knew that the day was going to come when my son’s math homework would render me stupid. Alas, that day has come. A couple of weeks ago Jack’s homework assignment for math was to complete a sheet of Egyptian fraction problems. Let me preface this by saying that my son is quite good at math. He enjoys it and has had no problems understanding even the ridiculousness that is “new math.” This assignment, however, had us both stumped. In the end, despite our greatest efforts, we accepted defeat and left one side of his homework undone. I wrote the following note to his teacher to explain the incomplete assignment.

Dear Ms. Alexander,

You may have noticed by now that only one side of Jack’s math homework was completed last night. After trying for several hours to figure out the Egyptian fractions I have only this to say: the ancient Egyptians are extinct for a reason. I am a writer and editor and my husband is an attorney; neither of us has the “math” gene. (Full disclosure: I only passed high school math after making a solemn promise to my very flustered senior-year math teacher that I would never again bring shame to the subject by ever taking another math class for the rest of my life.) However, our desire to help our son with his homework–and eventually our own determination to not fail at FIFTH GRADE math–had us on our respective computers last night looking for the Jedi secret to figuring how the people who brought us the Great Pyramids added their fractions. Alas, to no avail. We even went so far as to call my sister-in-law, who happens to be a fifth-grade teacher in a neighboring town. She calmly tried to walk us through it as we sat on the other end of the speaker phone, staring blankly into the ether, grunting occasionally to let her know we were still conscious.

And so, the challenge side of young Jack’s homework remains woefully blank, and we ultimately hung our heads in shame around midnight last night as we admitted defeat. And at the tender age of 10, Jack has finally learned the sad truth of it all: his parents do not, in fact, know everything about everything. Sigh.

I’m handing in my adult card today. If you need me you’ll find me in the corner, in my pajamas, nursing a cup of tea, eyes glazed over, wallowing in my own stupidity.

With respect and gratitude,

Michelle S.

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