A while back I mentioned that I have a tiny problem with needing to correct people. What I think I failed to mention is how distressing it is to me when I am unable to do so. This might run in the family since I found out the other day that I have a cousin who corrects typos and grammatical errors in library books. I hope he doesn’t read my blog.
So, I hope you will understand my need to vent about this experience I had yesterday. Nick and I somehow ended up watching Math Homework Helpers on the local public school system’s television channel. This is pretty much exactly what you would think it is: kids call up with problems from their math homework and receive assistance from a teacher, a student, and a puppet.
We were lucky enough to catch a live broadcast. A few minutes in, I was already fired up about a 5th grader who was completely stumped by how many times 6 goes into 54. I was pretty much yelling at the television. “Seriously? How does she not know that? We had to memorize all the multiplication tables in third grade!” (It’s probably a good thing I’m not on Homework Helpers.)
But then it got worse. A kid called up asking how to divide 14 into 4569. It started well enough.
How many times does 14 go into 45? Three. Right…. So then you multiply 14 by three, that gives you 42… 45 minus 42 equals three….
… Bring down the six… 14 goes into 36 two times….
… Two times 14 is 28…. 36 minus 28 is six….
NO. This is so, so wrong. 36 minus 28 is most definitely not six.
If I wasn’t yelling at the TV before, I most certainly was at this point.
And this was live. Happening right before my eyes, but there was no way to intervene. If you have ever been inside a building and watched through the window as someone backs into your car, you know how I felt.*
And no one corrected this. Not even the puppet. They just sent this poor kid along with the wrong answer and a pair of plastic sunglasses from 1987. I kept expecting someone to step in, or for them to offer a correction, but it never happened. Nick tried his best to console me.
“How can they do that? That kid is going to turn in his homework with the wrong answer.”
“Yeah. It’s okay. The teacher will mark it wrong, if she even notices it. And that’s it. Then it’s done.”
“But it’s wrong.”
“I don’t understand why they need to do this anyway. Why don’t they just use a calculator?”
“But it’s wrong.”
Nick eventually managed to distract me and I forgot about it for the rest of the night. But today it’s still haunting me. So….
There. That’s better.
*This also reminds me of this weird enclosed space next to where I used to work. It was outside, but surrounded by buildings on three sides and a glass wall on the fourth, so you had to go through one of two doors to get in or out. Except one of the doors only lets you in; it doesn’t open from the inside. I was fortunate enough to have a window overlooking this space, and never tired of watching someone stroll around in there and then panic when they couldn’t get out the one door. I guess I don’t always need to correct people. Because sometimes it’s more fun to watch them discover their own errors.