Homework Yelper: Fraction Fail.

Written by: Andrea Angileri, Ed.S

In a perfect world, all of my formal education would make me a perfect homework helper. Yet, my sessions with my 11-year-old are riddled with some real ‘Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?’ fails. Which brings me to…fractions.
Alright..I’m smitten with ½, 1/3, and ¼. I use them regularly when “cooking” and “baking”.

“Use 1/3 of a cup of oil”…o.k.

“Add ½ cup of water to your Hamburger Helper”….got it.

“Can I have ¼ of your Kit Kat bar?”…no.

But when the tables are turned and the pies go flying off…fear creeps in.

“What is 8 of 2/7” or “What is ¼ divided by 5?”…coffee..STAT!

“Make a story problem of 5 divided by ¼”…can I just write ‘No thanks’?

The math homework session was days ago, but in the midst of it I imagined myself frantically slicing pizza into slices as pizza sauce maniacally flew in the air staining our clothes…the walls…or maybe I’d take a more friendly approach by using Legos and then resorting to bringing in a chainsaw from the garage.

Sometimes I am uncomfortably comforted realizing that somewhere there is a parent or grandparent sitting with a child and they are using the empty spaces to place ‘Tic Tac Toe’ in the workbook.

Realizing my limitations, I call in my middle-schooler. He helps for a bit, dodging the word problems, but doing his big brotherly part. We fumble through the workbook and I quickly put it back in his backpack like some sort of Jumanji game that we never want to make eye contact with again.

Math was never ‘my thing’. My parents told my Algebra instructor that I had ‘childhood issues with hearing’. He compassionately put me close to the front of the class. The problem was that I could have literally been placed inside his brain and I’d probably leap onto a chorus of a Rush song….anything but a theorem. I received my Masters and Ed.S in the throes of parenting little kids…I can do anything…but at 38 the language arts preference has grown ever strong, pushing math into the storage closet of my mind.

My kind of math goes a little like this.

“If I am mailing a bill from Illinois to Pennsylvania on a Monday…will I have $300 in my checking account on Friday?”

“If I have 4 children and 5 hours of sleep…what time the next day will I completely lose my mind?”

“What percentage of my student loans will get paid off by the time I die?”

The naysayers were wrong when they said, “We’d never use this again”. Clearly we would….to help our kids do their homework. A few days later, my son came home with rectangles with spaces that were blank, hatched, or cross-hatched (high school art terms that I miraculously recall). I had to throw in the towel. A key thing to remember is that homework is only supposed to reinforce what the child is learning in school, not introduce new information…nor drive a parent crazy. I really like all of my children’s teachers. I basically like anybody who is a teacher because it is not for the fainthearted. Neither is parenting.

So parents, when you are alone at that dining room table and you can’t find an engineer major within arms reach…hear a distant chorus of Michael Jackson’s ‘You are Not Alone’ and know that I when I too see things like what is 9 of 5/16ths… I kind of want to tell 9 to kiss 5/16ths of my…foot.

Wait…would that be my tiny toe?… I rest my whole case.


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