Now, I did tell you all in my post about grant budgets that math wasn’t my strong suit, though I am capable of using Excel and even some complex formulas—algebra is alright in a tightly controlled environment, but I’d never want to meet it on a dark night in a blind alley.
But today, my fifth-grader sought my help on his math homework, and like anyone suffering from PTSD, I found myself reverting to that angry girl who shook her fists at the gods who would have created anything as inexplicable as math. My blood pressure increased, my jaw clenched, and I read the problem aloud, over and over, hoping that somehow the words would reveal the secret the worksheet was looking for. I tried to hide my anxiety from my child, not wanting to taint him with my own math-dread, but when I got a call from my dear sister-in-law (and friend), I couldn’t keep my voice lowered.
“Wait, Ana, wait. I know I haven’t talked to you in weeks; your spouse could be dying; you could have lost your job; the big earth quake could have hit the Bay Area, but let me read you this math question of Liam’s and see if you can understand it!”
So readers, I drag you into this twisted homework assignment as well. I ask you to read these words and see if you can make heads or tails of them. Are you ready? Take a deep breath. Steel yourselves. Here’s the “clue” to the “number puzzle” (why do they try to make it seem like a great game by calling it a puzzle? They aren’t fooling anyone!)
Um, didn’t it say will make only one rectangle? It’s established that I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to math, but how could you have multiple correct numbers when it’s making “only one” rectangle? Or are they saying that it will make a rectangle that is only one tile wide? Or is it saying that it couldn’t be divided up to make two rectangles if you were to split up the tiles? And hold on, are the tiles even square? (There’s no definition here of what a tile is.) Is the answer infinite? Shouldn’t my son just draw an ∞ ?
By this time I’m curled in a fetal position on the floor, typing with my toe. Sigh. 5th grade math.