The Daughter's homework keeps me awake at night

When I indicated I was having trouble sleeping, someone suggested telling myself a story. This doesn’t work for me, because my head is already filled with stories that I want to let out, i.e., blog about. But I have not the time to do this. And while there are a few reasons for my busyness, none of them has more of an impact than my daughter’s homework. It takes us, and I do mean US, an AVERAGE of 90 minutes per night.

So if I’m spending an hour and a half doing THAT, by the time I’ve washed the dishes and done other chores, it’s 10 p.m. Should I write or should I go to bed? If I write, I may get overtired; if I go to bed, the mind continues to write narratives that I canot offload.

I’m writing this because I can churn it relatively quickly, but when do I wrote my feelings about FantaCon or the musical Ghost, both of which took place LAST month? Or the ABC Wednesday pieces that I USED to write three or four weeks ahead, but I only have the immediate next one written? Important anniversaries coming up, and remain unaddressed.

And much of the homework involves math problems from the so-called Core Curriculum, or Common Core that I think are quite challenging for a fourth grader, especially since New York has deigned to start on the process BEFORE it really trained its teachers in the methodology.

You have questions asking about the number of footballs, when it’s told you about the total number of balls, and the number of baseballs, and that the number of basketballs is a certain number less than the number of baseballs. The process means one needs subtract to get the number of basketballs, then add them to the number of baseballs, then subtract that sum from the total number of balls. And these are four- and five-digit numbers.

This is NOT her father’s fourth grade math, and not only do I love the subject, I am good at it; she, conversely, is learning to HATE it.

Then one gets a question such as this one:
“In the 2010 New York City Marathon, 42,429 people finished the race and received a medal. Before the race, the medals had to be ordered. If you were the person in charge of ordering the medals and estimated how many to order by rounding, would you have ordered enough medals? Explain your thinking.”

I discovered, after talking with two colleagues, and after a couple hours, that the second sentence is the source of the utter confusion, and by excising it, then what is being sought in the question becomes clear.
If one rounds 42,429 to the nearest 10, it’s 42,430 and you have enough medals.
If one rounds 42,429 to the nearest 100 or 1,000 or 10,000, it’d be 42,400 or 42,000 or 40,000, respectively, and it would be an insufficient number of medals.

This is not the only bad question, only the most egregious one. It’s become a challenge to motovate her to do the stuff that has actual value when it’s so heavily-laden with rubbish.

Attacking these questions is perceived as not wanting to “challenge” or “enrich” the students. I think the IDEA is fine; it’s the EXECUTION that I think is faulty.

10 thoughts on “The Daughter's homework keeps me awake at night”

  1. I agree with the obtuse Math question – did you have time to go and have a chat with the “teacher”? I was a fourth grade teacher and sometimes the Math stumped me, too, as it is not what I learned either. However, with regard to the time it takes for homework, that is ridiculous. We always suggest 10 minutes per grade; therefore, a fourth-grader should not do more than 40 minutes per day. If it takes longer than that, there is something wrong. I truly believe that it is overkill to make kids do pages and pages of math questions on the same skill set. Once they “get it”, that’s enough. Move on.


    1. Leslie – actually, there was a PTA ice cream social that week, and the teacher was serving ice cream. So I DID have a discussion with her. But she’s a first-year (at least in this district) teacher following the curriculum that jhas been foisted on her.


  2. I gave up around fourth grade trying to help our kids with math. The way I was showing them (which worked flawlessly) was not the way math it taught these days. They kept tell me I was doing it wrong and I couldn’t get my head wrapped around the way they were “suppose” to get the answer.


  3. I agree that you ought to complain, maybe not to the teacher, but to the principal. Kids that age shouldn’t have more than 30 minutes of homework a day, and that’s pushing it. I was never big on homework when I taught; kids need a break, but a little is fine.

    I also agree that perhaps you should stop helping her. This year I’ve made a conscious choice to stop correcting Norah’s homework; I don’t help her, but I did go over her answers and tried to help her when she did something wrong, but I asked the teacher about it and they go over it in class, so I might have been telling her how to do something differently than the teacher wanted. Still, that math question is idiotic. When you first posted it on Facebook (that was you, wasn’t it?), I couldn’t even figure out what the question meant, much less how to answer it!


    1. Greg- I’d stop except that would make her despondent. She DOES get it, eventually (when it makes sense). And THAT question that confounded me made her feel that she’s not stupid, she’s not crazy.


  4. What the question doesn’t say is how many entered the race. I would have calculated metals for one half the number of entrants and printed coupons for the rest thereby not having wasted anything on unused metals. But that’s just my thinking. Hope you can tell I hated math.


  5. “Teaching to the Test.” Thank you, George W. Bush and “Every Child Left Behind, Especially In The Arts.”

    The medals question: I’d take the number of entrants and calculate 5% above to accommodate late registered people. It’s the same formula we used to use in catering: Always ensure extra for the stragglers, and if there’s too much food, the help can eat it.

    Although I don’t know what they’d do with the medals… perhaps give out to volunteers who went the extra mile, like EMT and police and those special uber-volunteers who stand out every event?

    Keep helping, but perhaps let her take a stab and then tell her there are some mistakes, and generally point them out? Girls get it drummed into them that, in the words of that crappy Barbie, “Math is hard.” Amy


    1. The problem is that the math isnt that hard, it’s the English in the math. Had a question this week about the seating capacity of LSU stadium. She didn’t know “capacity” so she didn’t knpw how to answer. If it were the number of people who would fit there, then the population of San Jose (ten times that) is easy. But thenyou have to do these graphic representations which I had not seen before, and terms such as “expanded form” which, now that I KNOW is actually easy – 90,000+2,000+300+80+4 – but three weeks ago neither of us knew what it meant.


  6. I also have problems with helping my kids to do their homework and explaining to them what do these words mean(while math should have clear directions as to what you are supposed to do with the numbers). It is really time-consuming, but if we didn’t have so much hassle with the homework, it would be next to impossible to keep my kids away from the TV, from watching movies and cartoons until late at night. Which of those is really worse, I don’t know.


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