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Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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The New Math

Usually I take approximately two and a half bajilliondy photos any time there's a special occasion, like the sun came up, or I'm awake.  Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me while Zoe and I were playing school in her room and I didn't want to interrupt the game to get it, so I'll have to try to recreate the scene for you as best I can.  I thought it was something to which we all could relate - if you've spent any time in school, there's no doubt there have been at least a few occasions when you felt like I did during this game.

I was sitting on the edge of her bed, playing the role (very convincingly, I think) of Dense Student.  Zoe was, of course, The Ever-Patient Teacher, standing in front of her school playset, determined to cram some knowledge into my thick skull.

"Can I show you how to make flash cards?" she asked.

"Absolutely, if you think I'll understand," I said, wide-eyed and ready to learn.

"Sure.  First, you draw a circle.  Then write the numbers along the bottom, 6, 8, 7... oops.  I mean, oh yeah, that's right, you put them in that order.  And draw a line.  Okay?"

She was so obviously  making this whole thing up as she went along, but I pretended to take notes (flashback to elementary school - speaking of things that were totally made up, I've always suspected that the Board of Education invented sentence diagramming as a joke).  At this point her dry erase board looked something like this:


"Okay, then you very carefully write in 6, 7, 8 and 7, 6, 8.  And some legs."  Huh?  Legs?  All right...


"Now add a beak, two eyes, and a wing like so, and a tail..."  She noticed that one of the flash card's eyes was bigger than the other, but quickly decided she drew it that way on purpose.  "I mean, this bottom one is actually a nose."


At this point I was stifling laughter because her Flash Card Bird (patent pending) had a little button nose above its beak.  For some reason this struck me as ridiculously funny, probably because I knew it would be a really bad time to laugh.  Things are always  funnier when you can't laugh.  Luckily she was still in Serious Teacher mode, so she forged ahead with her lesson plan.

"Okay.  Now there's another one over here, and it's getting a worm."  She was blocking the dry erase board while she drew, and it took quite a while.  I'll admit I was starting to wonder if this class would go on indefinitely; back in my Real School Days, this was the part where I'd check the clock and start to count the minutes until lunch.  Eventually she turned around.


She glanced back at her work and said, "Make sure he's holding the balloons."

"Of course," I said, as if I were concentrating intently and truly understood the importance of making it look like there were balloons poking out of the flash card's wing.

"Now pay attention," she instructed sternly, speaking slowly in such a way that her lack of faith in Dense Student's intelligence was evident, "This part is tricky.  The Dad is still trying to get his worm out of the ground."  She drew this for me, too.


Then she whirled around and asked suddenly, "Now who can solve this math problem?"

What?  Math problem?  This is math class?  And that was the whole lesson?  For a second I felt like I was right back in school, called on by the teacher in the middle of a daydream.  What had she been saying?  Are birds an actual mathematical function?  I tried to think quickly.  Let's see, you take the square root of balloons, carry the worm, add four, divide by feathers...

"Twelve?" I answered tentatively.  She shook her head with disappointment.  I could tell I was having a Jeopardy Moment - pretty much every time I watch that show, there's some question I think  I MIGHT  know the answer to ("Who is Thomas Jefferson?" I suggest with limited self-assurance) but it turns out I'm SO far off that the answer isn't even a person ("Ohhh, I'm sorry," says Alex Trebek in his Trademark Condescending Tone.  "The answer was, 'What is beef stew?'").  But I wasn't going to give up that easily this time - I continued to guess.  "Is it diamonds?  Purple?  Six?  The Magna Carta?  Zimbabwe?  Dangling participle?  The moon?  Hydrogen?  Am I close?"

Zoe sighed heavily and turned to erase the board.  "Yes, that's right," she said.

Whew.  Well, it was sixth grade all over again - I hadn't quite learned whatever it was I was supposed to learn, but I'd somehow survived being put on the spot by the teacher - this time.  As she began to write the next math problem on the board


it slowly dawned on me that it wasn't anywhere near lunchtime.

P.S. In case it comes up and you need to know, heart plus flower equals love.

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