Thursday, December 11, 2008


Daniel loves numbers, invites them in to his mind for long visits and lets them stay on as tenants because they are quiet and orderly. They don't change the rules, he says. There's no "I before E except after C, except for all these exceptions . . .". One plus One is Two--always. It's a love affair without words. If Daniel is faced with a math problem, he simply presents it to the numbers in his head and they instantly reassemble themselves as the answer. No explanations necessary. This gift fascinates his mother who must SEE numbers written out to appreciate them and then it's still a strained conversation requiring frequent mediations using calculators and online helps.

However, as of late, Daniel's love affair is on rocky ground. The rules of Algebra dictate processes and formulas and explanations. An interloper has inserted itself into Daniel's neat inner world. It's calling itself "The Variable" and it comes dressed as the letters, A,B,X, and occasionally Y. It is not a nice person--often pretending to be something it's not. Suddenly there are questions that must be answered. "Where are you going?" "When will you be back?" and "Who will you be seeing?' and "Must you dress like that?" The numbers hate The Variable and poor Daniel is caught in the middle.

So we frequently sit down with the teacher's manual and his book with scraps of paper and scribble out what we do and don't know (long list in my case). And between the two of us, we're making headway. Tonight there were even whoops of joy as we figured out a problem. I'm beginning to suspect that by the time Daniel finishes his first year of algebra, I might be ready to face it myself. And I think by the time Sam, my youngest, has moved on to high school, I might be ready to back and face College Algebra.


Big Plain V said...

Do not be frightened. Numbers are your friends.

jeanie said...

Algebra - its really just numbers at a fancy dress party!

Anonymous said...

As someone who does NOT understand numbers, no matter how logical everyone tells me they are (and manages to teach for a living!) I am in awe of anyone who understands any numerology whatsoever.

Mary Paddock said...

Ray--That's what they tell me. :)


RH--I agree completely.

Dennis Bryant said...

The trick to algebra is repetition. It is very well behaved following clear rules. Learn the rules--practice them--and understanding will drop out of the sky unexpectedly and clobber you. It's a beautiful thing!