by Marinka on January 11, 2010

I have many posts brewing in my mind. The one about my new cabbage soup diet.  The one about the Folgers commercial where the dad hints that his daughter’s fiancee asked him for permission to marry her.  The one about how Husbandrinka has this new and super annoying habit of prefacing his answers to my questions with “for the fifth time-” and how I will probably be arraigned on murder charges soon.

But all this has to wait because today my 11 year old daughter came home from school today and told me that she got her math test back and “on the problems alone, I got 14 out of 18 right, but if you add in the vocabulary, I got 18 out of 40.”  It’s like it runs in the family. OMG.

First of all, I didn’t even know that they had math vocabulary, but apparently they do.  And in my daughter’s defense, it was really hard, so 18 is really fantastic.  For a gerbil.

Second of all, when she initially told me  that she got 14 out of 18 correct, she made a mistake and it was really 14 out of 28.  Thud.  I’m hoping it wasn’t one of those math tests where they expected you to know numbers and the difference between 18 and 28, because that would be really unfair to people who are not into that kind of thing.

Third of all, What the FUCK?

This refers to her attitude, which can be summarized as “oh, well”.  I asked to see the test and she said that she left it at school. I told her to bring it home tomorrow and she said that if she remembered, she definitely would.  Unless it was too heavy, or something.

She is not happy with her performance on her test, but she doesn’t seem as unhappy as she should be, in my opinion.

When I was failing math at her age, I did what any normal kid did and hid the tests from my parents and lied about my performance.  Because I may have been a math moron, but I knew that it wasn’t socially or parentally acceptable to fail math.

But my daughter is not lying.  She admits to her math score (maybe she doesn’t realize that 18 0ut of 40 is not very high?) and while she’s not proud of it, she doesn’t seem to be cowering with shame, either.

What is going on?

Are we raising a generation of super confident power girls who embrace their math idiocy? (I say this in the most loving way possible).  Isn’t shame and self-loathing a normal part of education?

Oh, I can extrapolate to the greater kids today! rant.  But I don’t want to do that.  But I want my children, confident though they may be, to think that they can do better.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth January 11, 2010 at 8:47 pm

First of all, math is hard. And the first thing to remember is that self-esteem is more important than math. Because the number one thing to know is that there are always calculators.


Marinka January 11, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Long live calculators.
Self-esteem is more important than math, but I’m worried that it sends me the message that “it’s ok to fail, you’re still great!”


January 11, 2010 at 8:54 pm

When I was in middle school, I went through a spell where I got middling grades, and my parents tried every carrot/stick in the book to get me to do better, and nothing worked. My mom, who taught at my school, was bemoaning my grades to another teacher, who said, “Well, she’s getting the grades she wants to get, and she’ll have to deal with the consequences.”

So the next time I brought home a not great grade on a math test, my mom said, “I guess that’s the grade you wanted.”

I was furious that she would suggest that I WANTED to get a C on a math test. My mom’s answer to my protests was that if I had wanted a better grade I would have studied harder.

And that was all it took to turn me around. She put everything back on me, and stopped the power struggle over grades and school.

Not that it made me any better at math. I just tried harder to not suck so badly.


Marinka January 11, 2010 at 11:02 pm

I like that a lot.
I was sort of hoping that your story ended with your being Stephen Hawkins’ tutor or something, but I’m not even sure if he does math.

But I will try telling my daughter that she got the grade that she wanted. If nothing else, it may confuse her into studying.


January 11, 2010 at 9:01 pm

i’m sure your daughter will use this opportunity to turn things around and make an effort with her math studies. i was, and still am, horrible at math. i won all the spelling bees, but my understanding of mathematics stopped after multiplication tables. i got a C- to D- in all my middle school and high school math courses. i even bombed my two required college courses. i had a private tutor in MS and went to the “math room” in HS during my free time to do homework and get help. i even failed algebra II and still not sure how i graduated. what really bugs me is that my grandfather was a mathematical genius. he went ot MIT for it and taught mathematics at the college level for a while. it skipped my father and myself. however, in all honesty the only math i have used is addition, subtraction and multiplication. i think all the other stuff is just to prepare students for standardized testing. it’s not needed in the real world, unless your career goal includes mathematics.
good luck with the cabbage soup diet. those i know who have done it said it wasn’t worth it.


January 11, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Perhaps the test was on fractions?


Maddnessofme January 11, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Take away her Macbook until she brings home a math test with at least 90%. I think that is the number of questions right divided by the number of questions on the test. At least I think so, but I don’t care. What ever.


Marinka January 12, 2010 at 9:55 pm

omg, if I took away her Macbook, she would file an instant appeal.


January 11, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Ugh….can I just skip the whole middle school math thing?


K-Line January 11, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Honey, I feel your pain. After 2 hours of de rigeur freaking on the kid to get her to engage with homework. I mean, any homework warrants a fight, but math is particularly saucy.


January 11, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Thank God I do not have to go through that any more. When my oldest was in the 6th grade she came home with math homework that blew my mind. I had never seen anything quite as atrocious. I looked at the answer in the back and tried to determine how they worked to get them. That didn’t work. I was doing the dating thing at the time and had talked to a guy who was an accountant. He helped. Honestly…I don’t know how the kid graduated. I would have flunked.


anna see January 11, 2010 at 10:14 pm

just thinking about math gives me a rash. of course i beat myself up for it all through middle and h. school. maybe she needs a dose of jewish guilt, marinka.


Braja January 11, 2010 at 10:36 pm

You have to look on the bright side: Daughterdrinka is the trainee advocate for the movement of Women In Their Place, which promotes the role of wife, mother, and cook for women, and nothing else….no education required. Bingo! Success…..


Braja January 11, 2010 at 10:37 pm

I think….


nuthousenominee January 11, 2010 at 10:41 pm

OMG! I am so glad I am not alone in this kids and math shit and don’t even get me started on the reading comprehension. My son came home with a 52% on his test today and and was like “Whatev, can I play the Wii?” Well, one can only hope that my daughter inherited my smartness.


Alyssa January 11, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Just wanted to know where you learned your blog manners that you think you are too good to comment back on my blog!


JulieBouf January 11, 2010 at 11:10 pm

I actually just snorted with laughter at (maybe she doesn’t realize that 18 0ut of 40 is not very high?).


Sophie January 12, 2010 at 5:30 am

WHAT is math vocabulary?
Also, middle school math is hard, and I’m sayibf this from my high seat of someone who suffered a lot until she finally mastered it, somewhere around the age of 17.


January 12, 2010 at 8:59 am

When I was just starting hard math in 5th and 6th grade, my mom, who had a master’s in math and computer science in the good ol’ USSR, used convene psychological warfare lots. It’s not that I even didn’t study hard, I just made careless mistakes and sometimes didn’t understand concepts. One time, I got a 68% on a test, which was worse than death for me. Up until college, I thought anything below a 90% was a failing grade. I think it might have been geometric concepts. I cried on the bus ride the whole way home because I felt so ashamed and because I knew this would affect my 5th grade career and because my mom was waiting at home. It was a Friday night.

I came home, told my mom about the test, and showed it to her. First, her face expressed bitter disappointment. Then, there was rage. “This is what we brought you to America for? So you could fail on tests? Why were you so careless? How could you be like this? Look, you didn’t even erase the problem the whole way. All of your work is not neat. What did I tell you about writing neatly?” And she went on like this for about half an hour. During this whole time, I cried, hard, and when she was done, she made me sit down and redo the problems all over again and went to the library with me to check out a math book and made me do extra problems over the weekend and the next week.

These kinds of fights went on for fifth and sixth grade, and in seventh grade, she stopped having to police me because I policed myself and stayed up late to do homework and bug the crap out of teachers for math help. My math grades, while never stellar because math was not my best subject, were something I always worked on because I was never satisfied with getting an 85% on a test and saw it as a mark of failure.

So, I say all this, in summary, bring the shame and loathing on. It will only help your daughter get better and understand that more is expected of her. I mean, look at me. I turned out ok. *eye twitch*


I'm Nate's Mom January 12, 2010 at 9:20 am

When Nate was in 4th grade (last year), he was in a gifted math pull-out program and his standardized test scores were off the chart. This year, he began complaining about how his math homework was for preschoolers, so I inquired about the gifted program for him. After about 2 weeks of going round and round with the gifted teacher and the math consultant, I find out that he does not qualify for the gifted program. Shortly after that, he comes home with a 9 out of 15 on a test. I say, you realize that this is a 60?! I think he does this just to embarrass me.


Crys January 12, 2010 at 9:22 am

What is it with daughters and middle school math? I mean I SUCKED. HARD. at math, so I KNOW where my daughter gets it. I tell her, try as hard as she can if a D is the BEST she can do her career choices are VERY limited…


Susan (woo222)
January 12, 2010 at 11:19 am

Dude, I didn’t know there was math vocabulary either. I seriously re-read that part of your post four times before I moved on because I thought I had misunderstood something. VOCABULARY??? They didn’t test me on vocabulary in math. My future children are so screwed. ~Susan


Birdie January 12, 2010 at 11:32 am

Long ago in a land far away, when I was in HS, I had a terrible time with math, but was in advance classes for everything else. They even put me in the “general math” class, where the teacher was scared of most of the students (me too!) so everybody got a passing grade no matter what they did (or didn’t) do on their homework/tests. My counselor didn’t know what to do with me: a math moron who excelled in everything else. The counselor knew I could at least add and subtract so the solution was bookkeeping! At that time, the school offered Bookkeeping I and II as part of the Commercial curriculum. So that’s how I graduated with a combined college/commercial diploma. Of course, I didn’t get into Harvard. But I eventually discovered computers and that, like a car, I could learn how to operate them without a math degree. So I would recommend bookkeeping for daughter-rinka, and then DP 101. But not general math class.


January 12, 2010 at 11:47 am

having no children of my own, i feel extremely qualified to criticize other people’s parenting techniques. i think it’s important to let your child know that you don’t expect him/her to be the best – but to be the best THEY CAN. i think what bothers you is that your daughter doesn’t strive for excellence, and that it’s a very competitive world out there, and even though right now we live lives of privilege, things are changing. historically, the people who can do the math and have the best technology (i.e. weapons) usually win. sometimes people luck out, but most times they don’t. i think our parents from the old country saw that first hand. and btw, math is never about just numbers – it’s about critical thinking skills and logic. so i think you’re justified in feeling concerned.


Heather, Queen of Shake Shake January 12, 2010 at 1:02 pm

From middle school through high school, I didn’t do well in math. Then I got into college and kick everyone’s ass through several calculus classes. I started to say “when it finally mattered” as if my college grades mean anything now. They don’t. What are we talking about again?


Maria @BOREDmommy
January 12, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Shame and self-loathing was always part of my education, as was guilt and the threat of imminent death – happily ingrained by my parents. It worked – most of the time.


Lindsey January 12, 2010 at 3:19 pm

It’s OK to be upset with her and disappointed with her. Kids today don’t have to face ANY reprucussions any more. So she’s not upset with it?!?! She will be when she no longer has her Macbook as a previous poster stated. Life isn’t fair if you fail at work what’s going to happen? Life goes on and you still get a raise. FUCK NO, you face the music and lose a job which makes you lose money, which makes you lose your Macbook! I hate how society makes parents that hold their children responsible look strict or like assholes.


deb williams January 12, 2010 at 3:59 pm

suddenly i have a brilliant idea for a mothers against math idiots support group (MAMI… how cute!). so here’s my sob story: my 16 yo has an F in algebra II right now and literally, doesn’t give two hoots. he wouldn’t give more hoots, but he can’t count any higher. he thinks he can somehow gloss over this little fact as he starts to look into applying for college. i keep telling him they don’t have a ski team (or dorms) at the local community college.

which leads us to my 13 yo who somehow keeps getting recommended for advanced math but SERIOUSLY doesn’t understand the concept of long division. no, seriously. and i keep explaining to the powers that be that he should be in REMEDIAL math and they just laugh and ignore me. apparently, he tests well, but is currently missing SIX out of TEN hw assignments and has a C- on his progress report.

i will tell you, the only solution is to just turn a blind eye and hope somehow a tutor fairy will land on your doorstep… STAT!


Kate Coveny Hood
January 12, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Healthy self confidence? Or true talent for denial?… Either way I hate math. And I dread the homework/tests phase looming on my motherhood horizon…


JK January 13, 2010 at 7:18 am

I feel your pain. I never stressed grades to my kids because I never wanted them to feel the need to cheat. The result is that my kids’ attitude was similar to your daughter’s. Oh well. I absolutely feel they need to strive more. If you can figure out how to make them want to, you’ll make millions on the bestseller. Can’t wait.


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