Monday, April 17, 2006

Problem Solving

I am downstairs, on the computer, hiding in shame. I take comfort in the fact that I am not the only person on the planet feeling this way. In fact, there are four people on the planet feeling this way. Two are not in the house and therefore can experience their shame with privacy and without the need to slink off to the basement. One is upstairs pretending he can overcome the issue. And then there is me, typing on a blog instead of parenting my child.

The reason I am shirking my parental duties is that I have absolutely no clue what to do. If this were alcohol, I would be prepared. If a pack of cigarettes had fallen out of my son's bookbag, I would be in full gear. Sex? Not a problem. The thing that felled a mother, father, stepmother and stepfather in one fell swoop?

Item number four on page 550 of the Algebra II Textbook. Observe:

4. Solve the problem using the Quadratic Equation. X2 + 7X + 6 = 0.

This is, in every sense of the word, a problem.

First, let's deal with the fact that I don't even know how to make the squared symbol on a keyboard. So that X2 thing is not the latest BMW SUV. That I would understand. It is X squared. Because once you ascertain what the hell X is, you are supposed to multiply it by itself. Which, to me, means you are multiplying nothing by nothing because I haven't the slightest clue what X is, or how to solve it. So I did what any strong woman would do.

I called my husband. Let's face it... husbands are built to mow the lawn, kill bugs, and solve math problems. Right? It's not that we women can't solve math problems. It's that we often choose not to. Besides, this is not a math problem. Math problems are 1 + 1 = 2. THAT is a MATH problem. X SQUARED + 7X = 6 = 0 is a nuclear equation. Women might talk badly about one another, but we have no desire to incinerate cities with atomic weapons. Hence the lack of a need for higher math.

I'm getting off topic. Okay.

My husband took an awful long time coming to the table. This is a man who is the son of a bona fide mathemetician. Suddenly all sorts of paperwork needed to be completed. Finally he showed up, frowned at the textbook, and wrote something down on a piece of paper. I looked at the paper.

X2 + 7X = 6 = 0.

I pointed out that we already knew that part. My son looked warily at the two of us, and picked up the phone to dial his father. His stepmother picked up. His stepmother, who works for a bank. In. Accounting. And deals with numbers every day.

"Um. Let me see," she told my son. And then started rummaging in their office for her high school textbooks. She claimed a vague memory of quadratic equations. She asked if the teacher was going to require that the work be shown. She suggested my son talk to his father.

Who had conveniently and suddenly dispatched himself to the store. He would call back. No doubt after googling "Quadratic Equations" and the nearest tutor.

We debated whether or not four adults whose ages total 151 years should actually have the boy call my husband's father, the mathmetician. We decided we were too ashamed.

My son hung up the phone. I tossed in the towel, and mumbled something about the importance of waiting laundry. Currently, my husband is upstairs, scratching out hieroglyphic (sp) symbols in search of an answer. He is confident he can do it. I am confident I'm going to let him try.

I tossed laundry into the washer and consoled myself with the fact that I took three years of Latin, was reading at college level by fourth grade, and can make a mean apple pie. Math, including nuclear equations, is overrated. I ignore the fact that my son pointed out that he has to suffer through Algebra II, yet four of his parents are doing quite well in life evidently without having retained any of it, thank you very much.

I countered that he wants to be an engineer, and that I hoped quadratic equations weren't a necessary function to keeping tall buildings from toppling over.

Regardless, I don't think I can pretend to be sorting laundry much longer. We are not the Brady Bunch. There are not that many items. I have to return to the scene, work alongside my husband and coparents, and help my son find the answer to the problem.

Which we will.... just as soon as we also find the number to the county school's Homework Help Line.


Ekota (kgiff) said...

Did you figure it out? I think it's -1 and -6.

Anonymous said...

x2 + 7x + 6 = 0

(x + 1)(x +6) = 0

x1+ 1 = 0

x1 = -1

x2 + 6 = 0

x2 = -6

Kerry said...

Well aren't Kelly and anonymous just the smartest things.