The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart. (Mencius, Chinese philosopher 372-289 BC)

Friday, 7 June 2013

You Can Tell They're Growing Up When ... You Can't Do Their Homework

Happy Days!

As a diligent parent I have always been more than happy to help my kids with their homework. Listening to my loved ones' reading has always been a joy, reading back their latest piece of fiction is never a chore and sitting alongside them as they puzzle through a page of sums is one of life's pleasures.

Until now!

The Dubmeister has now hit 13 3/4 and the Dubmeister is very good at Maths.

He is so good at Maths that he is in the top set for the subject and regularly outperforms his top set classmates in tests. The Maths that he does is far beyond number lines and times tables.

He is into Quadratic Equations, Sohcahtoa and Pi.

He has reached that stage when Mathematics becomes a language that only the very fortunate understand.

I did not realise this fact yesterday when I offered to test him for an upcoming test. I confidently expected to be able to ask him some tricky and yet fairly straightforward sums, perhaps a little bit of simple algebra, before sitting him down to a lesson on how to discover the answer to that perennial question: "What does x equal?"

It didn't work out as expected.

Working out the angles of polygons and parallel lines was simple enough. But then came Factorising, Multiplying Out Brackets and (horrifically) Using N to work out Quadratic Sequences.

Trying desperately to maintain my dignity I decided to ask him to teach me just how to use N to work out a Quadratic Sequence - nodding sagely every time he paused for breath. However, within 30 seconds I realised that I had lost focus and had no idea where N fitted into a Quadratic Sequence. Or even, what on earth a Quadratic Sequence is.

My horror enfolded further when I realised that he had stopped talking and was asking me just how I would use N to work out a Quadratic Sequence.

Being a proud man I tried to bluster out an incoherent answer that could possibly sound like I had been listening and understanding everything my son and heir had been patiently explaining.

But he wasn't fooled.

"So Dad," he said, sighing patiently at his dopey father, "if we take that all into account, what does 3 take away 2 equal?"


It is when you find your son explaining his homework to you a second time only this time more slowly and with pauses for questions to ensure that you are still listening - that you realise that life has changed for ever.

No longer can I claim the wisdom of the elders over him  in all things. I may well have 29 years on him, however, when it comes to Quadratic Sequences I cannot hold a candle to his youthful understanding. It has passed into the misty, forgotten corners of my teenage school experience - like many things mathematical.

Speak soon

PS There are more musings on "You can tell they're growing up when ..." here.
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