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The Times
  • Lost in Suburbia: I’m bad at math … so shoe me

  •  I have never been particularly good at math.  I got the basics down when I was a kid and I can actually add sums without the help of my fingers, but beyond that, I’m not much use. So when it comes to helping the kids with their math homework, I generally leave the ...
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    I have never been particularly good at math.  I got the basics down when I was a kid and I can actually add sums without the help of my fingers, but beyond that, I’m not much use. So when it comes to helping the kids with their math homework, I generally leave the heavy lifting to my husband. He does understand quadratic equations, the Pythagorean theorem, and other things that make my brain hurt. I’m perfectly happy to be less than perfect in this way and see no need to become any more proficient in math than I am. My husband, however, feels it is his duty as a representative of the mathematically proficient population to try to help me understand these concepts. Such was the case one day when my son came to us for help with a word problem. My husband helped him solve the problem, and then tried to explain it to me.
    After two attempts that left me with smoke coming out of my ears, he put it in the simplest terms possible.
    “OK, let’s say you have six suitcases …” he began.
    “Could we make it something else?” I interrupted. “I would never have six suitcases.”
    “What would you like it to be?” he sighed.
    “Um, how about shoes?”
    “OK, let’s say you have six shoes …” he resumed.
    “Would that be six individual shoes or six pair of shoes?” I asked. “’Cuz if it’s six pair we are actually talking about 12 shoes, right?” 
    “Six shoes,” he said.
    “OK, so three pair of shoes,” I confirmed.
    “Right. You have three pair of shoes …” he began again.
    “Are they wedges, heels, or boots?” I wondered.
    “It doesn’t matter,” he said.
    “It matters to me,” I insisted. “You want me to visualize three pair of shoes. I can’t do that if I don’t know what kind of shoes they are.”
    “OK. They’re boots. You have three pair of boots …”
    “Wait!” I interrupted again. “Are they leather or suede?  Are they black or brown?  Do they zip up or lace up or pull on? Is it a 1-inch heel or 2-inch heel? Is the heel rubber or stacked wood? Are they winter boots or regular boots?  Do they have a lug sole or a flat sole? Are they knee-high or mid-calf or ankle booties or thigh-highs?  Are they designer or no name? Are they on sale or full price? Are they a size 9 or an 8 ½ because I’m usually a 9 but sometimes if the boot runs large I can take an 8 ½, unless I need to put my orthotic in it and then I probably need a 9 ½.”
    Page 2 of 2 - I took a breath. He started to say something but I cut him off.
    “Also, are they the same three pair of boots because that really wouldn’t make sense. I mean, why would I have three pair of the same boots unless I really liked them and got them in three different colors. Did I get the same boot in three different colors?” I wondered.
    My husband stared at me.
    “Are you done?” he asked.
    “I think so,” I said. “Now what were you telling me again?”
    He rolled his eyes.
    “I have no idea.”
    Tracy’s new book, “Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir. How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself, and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs” is now available for PRE-ORDER!  To reserve your copy, go to Amazon or any online bookseller.
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