New Math: Carrying The One During A Pandemic

May 17, 2020
Woman in Glasses Staring Up



Ah… new math. That dreaded adjustment we parents have been facing, well, since forever really. Maybe we don’t remember that our parents had to learn a new math too.

And, it’s not like this new math is new. We’ve had years to adjust to it and years of fighting the urge to just scream “carry the one!” This time, it feels different. As does most everything during a pandemic.

I gotta be honest, I used to love that my child was learning a new way to do math. I embraced the whole notion of critical thought and how there are different ways to find a solution to the same problem. Then again, I wasn’t the one in the classroom. Until now.

The other night while watching my child finish his lessons, my patience was so thin. He was filled with joy that he and mommy were spending time together and that I was suddenly so heavily involved in this slice of his world. I, on the other hand, was finding myself getting really annoyed.

I knew, the problem in his math book wasn’t the problem at all. I knew, it was me. So I took a breath and took a step back and looked at my child and said with calm honesty… “can I show you the way mommy learned to do this?”

He was pretty reluctant. Finally he said: “Yes, but just know that I like doing it the way I’ve been taught.”

And that’s when it hit me hard: “New math” isn’t new at all, not to him. For my child, this was the easiest way to finish the lesson. He didn’t need his parent to force him down her memory lane. He just wanted to do his work and know I was present.

“Absolutely. Understand. There are lots of different ways to solve the same problem. You do it the way you can.”

It was as simple as that.

As soon as I stopped trying to micromanage his assignment and relaxed, my son started telling me that he missed his school, that he missed his teacher, that he didn’t mind so much this new way of school but that he felt lost without the rules.

He told me he hated this virus, but he knew it wouldn’t last. That someday, we’ll all figure it out.

And we will.

We will find our way through knowing someday this is in the past.

Some of us will want to do it the way we’ve been taught. Others of us will lean into a new math. And together, we’ll come up with all sorts of methods to problem solve. Together, we’ll adjust.

We’ll miss what we knew.

But, if we take a breath and take a step back, we just might discover, like I did, that what’s annoying us isn’t so much the assignment, but maybe… our own reluctance. We might just discover, the lessons weren’t so hard after all.

“Done!” My son finished four pages from his workbook and hugged me hard. “Look mommy,” he smiled. “I didn’t erase your carry the one example! Let’s send the teacher the pictures of the homework now!”

None of this is easy. A lot of it is hard. But I hope for you today, that whether you carry the one or not, the homework might be, for all of us, the very best part.

Much love to you. Stay safe,