I have bad news.
The list of things that I can do is getting smaller and shorter. Like the other day I was looking at my 13 year old daughter’s Facebook page and saw that she took some kind of an online math quiz and posted her answer:
And I got really annoyed.
Because math is my daughter’s thing. She is attending a mathy high school next year, selected for its very mathiness. And I think that making a careless mistake and posting it on your Facebook for the world to see is just dumb.
We’ve been having an ongoing conversation for a while now about respecting the process and if you enjoy a subject, like she does math, to take your time with it, to be thorough and not to get cocky. That doing something well is more important than doing it quickly. That in our lives of social media updates, we still need to take pride in our work.
Her error really spoke to this issue and I was eager to discuss it with her.
Except when I did, she held her ground.
“I had the right answer,” she said.
“No,” I told her. “You didn’t see the zero at the end because you were rushing.” It’s important to be patient with children and point out their mistakes in detail. “And anything multiplied by zero is zero.”
I was feeling good at this point. Well, as good as a math teacher can feel in this economy.
“I saw the zero,” she said. “But you didn’t follow the order of operations.”
“Order of who, now?” I asked.
“Order of operations,” she said, like it’s a real thing. And then she put this on her white board.
According to her, there’s this new-fangled rule that you have to multiply first and since 1 times 0 is zero, that part of the equation is zero and you just add up all the other ones.
That is crazy shit, excuse my French.
So I did what any normal person would do and tweeted an abbreviated version of this problem.
In the first camp were People Like Me. Otherwise known as people who had the wrong answer. There were many of them and they swore up and down that anything multiplied by zero was zero. As it should be.
And in the second Kamp were People Not Like Me Who Know About The Order of Operations Probably Because They Didn’t Watch Enough TV As Children, who insisted that you multiply whatever is there first, even if there are no parentheses. It seemed very crazy to me, but they appeared very confident.
And apparently right. And then some of them even wrote a post about it.
So I reluctantly accept this new-fangled-math, but I’m pretty sure that I was never taught it this way.
Which probably explains why all the bridges that I build keep tumbling down.
One year ago ...