Today my kids’ Christmas vacation ended, which means that mine ended, too. Back to the ole homeschooling grind, which I normally enjoy. Today, though, both of my kids had algebraic related difficulties, which means that I had algebraic difficulties, too. We finally managed to get through it (although it was touch and go for awhile), but it left me asking the same question I asked when I was in school over 20 years ago:

Who the fuck ever uses algebra in their daily lives? Seriously.

I’m not talking about simple stuff like figuring out what “x” is in x – 73 = 569. I’m talking about seven mile long equations with parenthesis and even negative numbers. Other than algebra teachers and very specific brands of scientists, does anyone else ever need to go this mathematically in depth? I mean, we were dividing postive numbers by negative numbers today. In real life, is it even possible to divide a quantity by a negative number? If it is, I don’t wanna know about it.

My brain is officially oatmeal right now. Fortunately, I don’t have to do anything this afternoon and evening that requires brain power. I just have to go to work.

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Quick housekeeping note: I added a couple of new questions to the Waiting For Spring FAQ page. Don’t hesitate to email me with any questions or comments, or to plop ’em right into the FAQ comments section.

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## About R.J. Keller

R. J. Keller is the author of Waiting For Spring. An avid independent movie enthusiast, she was Managing Editor of The Movie Fanatic website and created episodes of the writer-centric YouTube series, Inside The Writers' Studio, with author Kristen Tsetsi. She co-hosted Book Chatter with Stacey Cochran from 2011-2014. She lives in Central Maine with her family, where she enjoys gardening, collecting geeky memorabilia, and watching other people cook.

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January 5th, 2009 at 5:07 pm

It teaches logic and manipulation.

January 5th, 2009 at 7:01 pm

I think MoJo is secretly an Aaron. That’s what my dad would always say. “Math teaches you how to think.” He thought it was the most important course. He drilled it into us so thoroughly, that I still remember all that stupid shit that I have never used again my entire life. And you sort of know me now – really – has it taught me how to think properly? Hmmm?

January 5th, 2009 at 7:57 pm

I really struggled with any math containing letters until I took logic class in college. Being more word-oriented than number-oriented, that’s what it took to make the math click for me. After that, I went from being the gal who could barely manage slope-intercept to doing very well in calculus.

So if the kids continue to struggle and are highly word-oriented, see if you can find a way to teach them logic first–the deductive type, oriented around proofs and “if…then” reasoning. It will teach them how to look at the problems they will encounter in math and apply the rules in a systematic way.

January 5th, 2009 at 11:52 pm

I have a crush on higher math.

January 6th, 2009 at 12:21 am

@ MoJo #1 and Robin – That’s what my hubby says about math. Frequently. He’s a math whiz. Opposites attract.

@ BG – I think that is the problem with the three of us…we’re all word people. I’ll have to find a way to do it the way you suggested.

@ MoJo #2 – You can have higher math all to yourself. I won’t fight ya for him.

January 6th, 2009 at 2:19 am

I hated algebra. Never made sense. Though, I do have dyscalculia and that makes everything fall into place. However,while I did poorly at most forms of math, I excelled in geometry. So very strange…

But I’m in agreement with what you’re saying.

January 6th, 2009 at 7:06 am

But algebra is fun. I always found it very fulfilling to solve equations. Such a long time ago. Wow. This homeschooling thing must make you very smart. I don’t remember 1% of that stuff.

January 6th, 2009 at 7:40 am

I hated math. Algebra was a space alien language. The teacher I had was horrible…unless you were one of those “math kids”. He told me I would never amount to anything. Then I got an instructor in college, as I had to take one of those remedial type algebra classes. She was a hoot, and algebra was fun! Long story short…. ended up with a degree in accounting, the crummy algebra teacher? He’s in prision for computer child porn.

And BTW…. I have yet to need a roll of shelf paper to work out a math problem since high school. But I am amazed when I am trying to figure out something…whether it is a bead count for a necklace, or cooking, that I suddenly realize “Hey this is algreba”…. and I thank the college instructor!

January 6th, 2009 at 10:02 am

That’s very common. No, take that back, that’s the NORM. And people who do poorly at geometry normally do well at algebra.

January 6th, 2009 at 10:09 am

That’s the norm? I never knew that…very interesting…learn something new every day.

I heard that those who are good with social studies are better at reading & writing; and those who are better at science do well in math.

January 7th, 2009 at 11:40 am

Joe, geometry and algebra use entirely different skill sets/thought process.

January 7th, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Interesting! I guess that would explain why I did really well at geometry — the first and only A I ever got in math — and sank back down to struggling for mediocre results (at best) as soon as the algebraic equations came back into the picture. I’ve always loathed math of the algebraic sort.

On the other side of the coin, and probably several people here could say the same thing, even when I hated my English classes, I could pull out an acceptable grade (to a chronic underachiever, anyway) without even trying.

I’ll have to look into that logic course thing — I’ve been thinking about home-schooling my kids, and if that happens, the wife and I are going to need serious help with math. Heck, home school or not, more logic might do the kids and their ne’er-do-well parents a load of good.

January 7th, 2009 at 5:36 pm

For me diagramming sentences=algebra. Both made no sense and seemed equally useless.

January 7th, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Geometry has remained a mystery subject. My sophomore year we spent the first half of the year having bomb threats at my school and was continually missing the early classes ( no it wasn’t me…..) Then we moved at Christmas. I walked into a class that had been going strong since September… I would like to say I was lost, but that would have put me in some place, I was beyond lost.

May 27th, 2009 at 1:06 pm

I am writing(exams) algebra tommorow and no matter how much i read i can’t understand shit!.At first i was really good at algebra but at the 3rd grade of gymnasioum I started losing it…and btw I LOVE geometry, and i really hate algebricated geometry,if you know what i mean,(sry for my english)