Thursday , 31 July 2014
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Curse of the Babylonians — Math homework with word problems

Without fully realizing our children would one day ask me to help them with their math homework, my wife and I started a family. For about eight years, everything was going great. We had three beautiful, healthy kids who showed signs of intelligence and not one of them asked me anything about fractions or if they could have their navels pierced.

I have never been good at math and I’m not at all pleased that someone decided to invent fractions and grow polynomials. Then, just to be mean, the Babylonians invented word problems. No wonder their society didn’t survive.

Shortly after our oldest son, Matt, entered the third grade, my wife rudely left to visit her parents in Vermont for a week and left me alone to help with our son’s third-grade homework. I checked our wedding vows and saw nothing in there about math, but that didn’t seem to matter to Matt.

He read me his assignment in his cute little voice.

“A circus performs four more shows during the week than it does on the weekend. Each week day, the circus performs two shows. How many shows do they perform on the weekend?”

He then looked up at me with big, hopeful eyes. What he saw, however, was a grown man’s face contorting into strange spasms of confused panic.

“The circus is in town?” I finally mustered.

Matt just stood there looking at me with those big wide eyes. I wondered if he could tell I was silently cursing the Babylonians. Then, in a moment of brilliance, I remembered Walt Disney’s Snow White on Ice was in town. I picked up the phone and called the ticket office.

“How many shows do you perform each week?” I asked.

“We have two shows Monday through Friday and three shows every Saturday and Sunday,” the nice lady said.

“So, how many shows would that be on the weekend?” I asked excitedly.

There was a long pause and then the nice lady finally said, “That would be six.”

Matt and I slapped high-fives. Sometimes math is easy.

Ed Thompson is president of LOGOI Ministries and a frequent contributor to this newspaper. Follow his blog at edthompsonlive.wordpress.com.