Roy Exum: Many Math-Tragic Replies

Monday, August 20, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The reaction to my Sunday story, “90% Can’t Do Math,” was fast and furious yesterday. A surprising number of the replies were from teachers, confirming the fact that only nine percent of the pupils in our Hamilton County Public Schools are getting the education that every taxpayer know will actually shape the lives these students will live.

Because my stories are shared on the Internet, you might be amazed the reactions they stir in the most unlikely places. In the United States today we give “social diplomas,” so children’s feelings don’t get hurt. But unless a lesson is learned it is foolishness spent. Many believe our schools are turning more and more into a disguised form of adolescent day care.

Unless achievement is earned, it is rarely learned. Never forget that while our public education system is struggling to right itself from “the worst of the worst,” all 43,000-plus students from 2017-2018 advanced to the next grade level this spring. If our kids have been unable to function at grade level in the third and then the fourth grade, name one adult among us who can’t predict failure-to-function is all but a certainty as the same children wallow in helpless anguish in fifth-grade classes that are well above their heads.

Here’s a note that came from Lubbock, Texas, this afternoon. This note is identical to others written by parents who are unable to afford private tuition and live week-to-week. They see what is happening and sadly cannot do one thing to subvert the consequences that are thrust on both deserving children and parents alike:

* * *

A LADY WRITES FROM LUBBOCK, TEXAS

Last week I purchased a small burger at Burger King for $1.58. The counter girl took my $2 and I was digging for my change when I pulled 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies, while looking at the screen on her register. I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried.

Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950’s:

* -- TEACHING MATH IN THE 1950’s: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

* -- TEACHING MATH IN THE 1960’s: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

* -- TEACHING MATH IN THE 1970’S: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

* -- TEACHING MATH IN THE 1980’s: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

* -- TEACHING MATH IN THE 1990’S: A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers, and if you feel like crying, it’s ok.)

* -- TEACHING MATH IN THE 2000’s: If you have special needs or just feel you need assistance because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, childhood memories, criminal background, then don’t answer and the correct answer will be provided for you. There are no wrong answers.

* -- TEACHING MATH IN 2015: Un ha chero vende una carretada de maderapara $100. El costo de la Producciones es $80. Cuanto dinero ha hecho?

MORAL OF THE STORY? Let’s make America great again.

* * *

EVEN KINDERGARTEN IS CHALLEGING THESE DAYS

This story proves that there’s nothing quite like childhood innocence.

A kindergarten teacher was helping one of her students put his boots on. He had asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn’t want to go on.

When the second boot was on, she was nearly out of breath.

She almost whimpered when the little boy said, “Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.”

She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as they worked together to get the boots back on — this time on the right feet.

He then announced, “These aren’t my boots.”

She bit her tongue rather than scream, “Why didn’t you say so earlier?” like she wanted to. Once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off.

He then said, “They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear them.”

She didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again. She said, “Now, where are your gloves?”

He said, “I stuffed them in the toes of my boots …”

* * *

As pitiful as it well may be, this is exactly what is happening in our public schools. We know it, can recognize it, and mourn it, but as one Hamilton County elected official said in an email, “Until the School Board demands and forces changes, the educational oversight mechanism will remain a do-nothing group with no say-so in any fashion. The School Board is toothless and has no power at all. So who does the HCDE believe who matters? Who do the schools answer to? No one! In total reality, if you’ll go back over and connect-the-dots, you’ll find a situation that is still deserved and evermore being cultivated.

royexum@aol.com 



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