“I hate math,” Hannah pouted as she dropped her school bag to the floor and crossed her small arms over her chest.
“Yeah?” Ian looked up from the book on the table in front of him. Advanced math, extremely advanced math. Math had always come easy to him, one of the few things that actually made sense, yet he knew better than to assume his daughter would feel the same way. He wasn’t going to make the mistake of demanding it, or assuming she’d come to love it just because he did. What he wanted, was to ensure that she kept an open mind to it.
“I hate it,” she repeated stubbornly. “I don’t care if you do math stuff and science stuff and all that stuff dad, I hate it.”
“Come here,” he held out his arms and she came over, pressing against him as he wrapped his arms around her. “I’m not gonna say you can’t feel the way you do Sweetheart,” he started softly. “But do you think you can explain what you hate about it and why?”
“It’s too hard and it doesn’t make sense, and it’s no fun and I don’t like it,” she climbed up into his lap, her gaze falling on the book, and the papers spread out on the surface of the table. Squinting at the figures and letters there. “Is that math?” she asked suspiciously.
“I’m afraid it is Sweetheart,” he mused.
“You mean it gets even worse?” her voice rose into a despaired pitch. “I don’t want to,” flinging her arms around him she buried her face against his chest. “No dad!”
“Hey, hey, don’t worry about it,” rocking her gently for a moment he put a gentle finger under her chin to tilt her face up to look at him. “This kind of math won’t come unless you want it to. Don’t worry about that now. But can you show me what the problem is, huh? I’m not going to say you have to like it, but do you think you can let me try to explain it?”
“Maybe,” she drew out the word, willing to negotiate then.
“Okay, how about you get the book, and I get some milk and cookies. Then you show me exactly what the problem is and we eat the cookies. How does that sound to you?”
“Acceptable,” she decided. Quite a good vocabulary for her age, but then with a linguistic expert for a mother that was bound to happen. Her mother didn’t try to force it on her either, but they did tend to lean towards a more advanced level of vocabulary in general, and naturally it rubbed off on her. One thing he and Louise was in full agreement of was that you could not, and should not attempt, to tell a child what they should and should not like. Half the time parenting was like wading through a minefield, no matter how careful you were to do the right thing, it came back to bite you. Telling your young daughter she had to be an expert on languages, or at math, no, that they refused to do. On the other hand, his own vocabulary had improved significantly from Louise, so it wasn’t strange at all that the little girl picked up on it. Children with parents who spoke different languages tended to be bilingual.
It was however a little harder to accidentally pick up some advanced trigonometry than it was to acquire an extended and improved vocabulary. Getting up and going to the kitchen he poured two glasses of milk, and slipped a handful of cookies onto a saucer. Moving some of his papers a hopefully safe distance away before he put the milk down. Experience was a good teacher there, children and liquids did not mix well with papers of important nature. Make that also children with things that smeared, such as chocolate cake, or children with colourful things, such as freshly made water colour drawings. Actually, make that children in general tended to be dangerous to important papers, it was like the whole thing about the bread always lands buttered side down. The more important your work was, the more damage a child could do to it. Well, he hoped it was safe now, emphasis on ‘hoped’.
Hannah came back, dragging a chair right next to his before climbing up, legs folded under her for extra leverage over the table surface. Pushing her math book towards him and stirring some of his papers.
Yeah, there it was, gathering them up a little more tidily he moved them even further away.
“Okay, let’s see what the problem is,” he mused as he opened the book and her practice notebook.
“Math,” she stated firmly. “That’s the problem dad, it’s math, and I hate math.”
Smiling softly he ruffled her hair, “you know, there is good math.”
“No there isn’t,” she shook her head, braids swinging back and forth.
“Sure there is, there is good math, and there is fun math,” he insisted. “Let’s try something. I’m going to write down an equation, a math problem if you will. And if you like it, it’s yours, okay?”
“Fine,” she pouted a little.
Reaching for his legal pad and a pen he tore out a fresh page, quickly scribbling down an easy problem. Sliding it in front of her when he was finished.
“You can take one cookie, plus one cookie,” she read it out loud as was still her habit. “So I can have two cookies?”
“See, that was good math, wasn’t it?” he teased and she nodded as she quickly reached for her two cookies.
“Maybe,” she drew out the word again, not quite willing to admit it, but then it was a very simple equation that he knew she knew very well. “But the rest of the stuff isn’t, and I bet you can’t make it.”
“Bet I can,” he teased. He could see why she didn’t like it. Two plus two, and five minus three had suddenly turned into something a little more complicated Three shares out of five, three parts out of six, and the book was using pie charts to convey the message. “But I think it’s going to take a little more time than we have before your mom gets home. Do you think it’s okay if we work on it more tomorrow?”
“If I have to,” she gave a theatrical sigh. “You’re gonna make me not hate it, aren’t you?” she demanded suspiciously.
“I’m going to do my very best,” he confirmed. “Do you have any math homework?”
She shook her head.
“Wanna keep me company while I do mine?”
“Okay,” she reached for another cookie as she leaned back in her chair. Sitting cross legged instead. Watching as he spread out some of his papers again, while trying to still keep them safe distance from her milk. “Dad, when did you decide you liked the math stuff?”
“About your age,” as close as he could determine anyway.
“Why does anyone decide they’re gonna like math?” she dropped her feet, tapping against the chair leg idly with her small shoe.
“I didn’t really decide I was going to like it Sweetie,” he mused, scribbling numbers and formulas even as he spoke. “I had math class same as you, and for me it was always kind of easy and fun. That’s just the way it is, some people are good at one thing, some people are good at another thing. As far as I can tell, you’re going to be way better at ice skating than I am.”
“That’s cause you’re not good at it at all,” she giggled. No doubt remembering all the times he fell over the last time they did it on the lake.
“But it wouldn’t be much fun if everyone, really everyone was always just as good as each other at everything, now would it?”
“No,” she shook her head, reaching for her milk. “Can I have the last cookie?”
“How many have you had already?” he asked, suspiciously. He’d brought out six, she’d had first the two, then one, and then another one. The question was, would she admit it?
“I can’t do math dad,” she giggled horribly, almost too much to speak.
“Then let’s see what we can make of it,” sliding the paper over he drew six circles. “I took out this many, do you agree?”
She giggled again, “yes.”
“And you had one plus one,” he circled two of them. “And I had one,” grabbing the red pen instead he circled another one.
“That is, one,” her finger followed the non-circled circles. “Two, three left dad.”
“And you had one more, plus one more,” he circled another two with the blue pen he had used first. “Now, if you and me were supposed to get the same amount each, and you want the last one, what does that tell you?”
“I dunno,” she clamped her hands over her mouth to try and stop giggling. “It’s too much math dad.”
“Yeah, it doesn’t say you’re a greedy little glutton for cookies then, does it?” he teased and she shook her head so that the end of her braids hit him in the face.
“No dad, it’s math, you can’t trust math,” she beamed happily.
“Hmm, let’s try again,” he indicated the circles with his pen. “If we are going to be as fair as possible, who should get the last one, then? You or m,” he broke off, why was she chewing? And why was the saucer empty? And why was she clamping her hands over her mouth as if she was trying to hide the fact she’d crammed the last one in there while he was distracted by the math?
Okay, downside, math cost you cookies...
“Okay, that is totally not fair,” he mused. “You’re cheating.”
“Yes,” she drew the word out. “But how do I know you haven’t been eating a lot of cookies while I was in school?”
He folded his arms across his chest, giving her a mock glare, “eating cookies while you are in school. Do you honestly think I’d do a sneaky thing like that?”
“Yes,” she burst out giggling again.
“Fine, I would, but I didn’t today,” he stuck out his tongue in a mock display of childishness. “So there.”
“Then you can have the last cookie,” she beamed.
“You already ate it.”
“Oups, sorry,” as hard as she was giggling, he was actually getting a little worried he’d see the return of it.
“Okay, you win this round, now, keep me company,” lifting her from the chair he sat her down in his lap where she wriggled a little before finding a comfortable position as he finished.
Explaining pie charts to a small girl who was not overly fond of math wasn’t going to be the easiest he knew, but a lot of it depended on the presentation. Hannah was perhaps not a borderline genius, but she was certainly not dumb. Some kids though had trouble picturing such things and how it related to actual things. Some kids had a much easier time with it. It was all about finding a way that worked. Hannah was a very active girl, playing and exploring. He had a feeling that for her, visual aids and physical props was going to be a big help.
When she came home, dropping her bag on the floor inside the door he was more or less ready for the lesson.
“Dad, what are you doing?” she frowned as she came into the kitchen. She’d long since stopped yelling ‘I’m home,’ as she’d realized the noise of her entrance made that superfluous.
“Math lesson, are you ready for it?” he ruffled her hair.
“That doesn’t look like math dad,” she shook her head. “Are you being silly? Or is mom right when she says you’re gonna go nuts from all the weird science nerd stuff?”
“She does say that, doesn’t she,” he admitted. “Not yet though, and yes, this is math, this is the pie charts. I just thought we’d have a go of making them with real pies.” He’d picked up six small circular pie trays. They already had a bigger one. He’d also gotten blueberries, cherries and peaches.
“Well, at least pies are good,” she mused as she climbed up on one of the high chairs. He’d carried his white board down into the kitchen, and drawn out a large circle on it. “What’s that for?”
“Well, we can’t just make the pies, we need to make sure we do the math as well,” he mused. “Go wash your hands and we can get started.”
Nodding she slipped down from the chair, soon coming back with damp hands before climbing back up.
“We’re going to have to do some math to get the right amount of ingredients, but I’ll keep it simple, okay?” he asked, picking up a marker. “I just want you to see it, so if it’s a little too hard, that’s fine.”
“I can do the simple ones if you do the hard ones,” she decided.
“Deal,” writing up the ingredients, and the measurements, she helped him multiply it to get the amount of pie crust they needed, dividing the finished crust between the pie trays. Then he turned to the board, dividing the circle into six even ‘slices’. “You see this is what we call a pie chart, pretty much only because it’s round like a pie, and when you mark shares of it, it looks a bit like pie slices. The colour isn’t really important as such, but each colour represents a certain amount of the whole. If we say this one, is this one, he pointed between the circle and the larger pie tin. Is that okay?”
“Yeah, that one, is this one,” she nodded, pointing at it.
“And you see we’ve made six ‘slices’ out of it, then they are these,” he pointed to the slices on the whiteboard and the six smaller tins.
“Yeah, each one of them is one on the board, but not really the big one,” she nodded.
“Yes, they represent one sixth of the whole pie. So, if we are going to make a pie that is half blueberry, how many of these are we going to put blueberry in?”
“If they are six,” she frowned over them, then pushed three small ones to one side, and three to the other. “Then these three are gonna be blueberry.”
“That’s right,” he beamed. “Then you can put blueberry in them, and we know.” He waited until she was done, having put a generous amount of blueberries in each of the three tins. “Then how many do we fill in on the board?”
“Three,” she beamed instantly.
“Great,” he smiled. “And, to make sure we remember,” he quickly coloured in three of them blue. “We do this,” drawing a small square he filled it in with blue, then wrote ‘blueberry’ beside it in black marker. “See, this square tells us that what is blue in the circle is blueberry in the pie.”
“But the colour doesn’t matter, so it could be red?”
“Exactly,” she was catching on. “Now, we can do this two ways, let’s say we are going to make one sixth of the pie cherry. Then we can either count it as a third of what is left, or, a sixth of the whole. That is the same thing, but one sixth of cherry, how many ‘slices’ is that?”
“Eh, one?” she slid one of the small tins in front of her. “Fill it with cherries?”
“That’s right, fill it with cherries,” he nodded.
“And you fill in one with red on the board, dad,” she urged as she started heaping cherries into the pie crust.
“See you’re really catching on,” he grinned. Visual aids could make a world of difference, especially if they tasted good. “So, see if you can tell me now, how much do we have left for the peaches?”
“Two sixes,” she beamed as she eagerly grabbed the last two small tins.
“Two sixths, yes,” he confirmed.
“Do you have a peach pen?” she frowned. “Cause peaches aren’t green.”
“I know, but no, I don’t have a peach coloured one, so I’d have to refer to my earlier statement, the colour doesn’t matter, even if it can be a help. How much do I colour in though?”
“All that’s left, two sixes,” she beamed as she put peaches in the crusts. A lot of peaches, about three ‘sixes’ worth… oh well.
“What are we using the big one for dad?” she wanted to know.
“If I draw you up a new pie chart on the board, do you think you could figure out how to make the pie like it all on your own?” he asked softly, not wanting to pressure her too hard, but she really was getting the hang of it.
“Yes,” there was a slight hint of hesitation in her voice. “But help me if it gets hard.”
“I will do that.” He drew a new circle, and divided it in the six slices. Writing the colour reference boxes first, then filling in half green for peaches, one for cherries and two blue for blueberries.
Hannah looked at it carefully, then drew slightly uneven lines to mark the slices with her finger in the crust. First heaping peaches in roughly half the crust, frowning a little as she contemplated the blueberries.
“You’re doing great Sweetheart,” he encouraged.
“Can I take the last one first?” she wanted to know. “It kinda looks easier since that is more.”
“You can take them in any order you want,” he assured her. “The order is not important at all.”
“Okay, good,” she filled in the blueberries and filled the last space with cherries. “That is gonna be a very funny pie dad.”
“I’m sure it’ll still taste okay,” he mused. “Let’s get the covers on them proper so we can put them in the oven. Then while they bake, I’ll teach you a few more tricks to reading a pie chart.” They finished up, and he showed her how to divide them in equal sections and count them, allowing her to work out a few examples while he cleaned up what they had used and the fragrance of pies filled the kitchen.
They had just taken them out to cool when Louise entered.
“Hi Little nose,” she greeted her daughter, kissing the tip of her nose after having lifted her up. “Mmm, something smells really good, what have the two of you been up to?”
“Math,” she beamed happily.
“Okay, there is no way math can smell that good,” she shook her head. “I could swear I smell a pie.”
“You know, pie is actually 3.14, which is math,” Ian chimed in. “But actually we’ve been working on pie charts.”
“Yeah,” Hannah nodded. “Cause a pie chart can be good. I didn’t think they could, but they can when they are real pies. We made a pie chart with blueberry pies and cherry and peaches, but dad don’t have a peach pen, so we made the peaches green.”
“Okay, that hopefully makes sense,” she mused. “You made a pie chart with pies? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”
“Yes, cause it tastes better than the ones on paper,” she beamed.
“Visual aids, they do help,” Ian shrugged. “The reason for actually using pies, well, it seemed to make sense. I sort of liked the irony, and it does kind of give of the right vibe.”
“It smells good at the very least, I’m looking forward to sample your work,” she decided. Moving forward to kiss his cheek. “I assume I’m allowed to sample?”
“I think we can permit that,” he nodded. “But only after dinner, which I have not thought about by the way. I might have gotten a little carried away by the pies.”
“Yeah, you do tend to get carried away when it’s about math,” she teased. “We have some sausages. Is pasta, cheese and sausages okay for everyone?”
“I like it,” Hannah declared. “Can I play until we eat?”
“Sure you can,” she put her down on the floor. “Your dad can give me a hand with the dinner.” With both of them having rather time consuming careers she sometimes felt a little guilty of how many dinners of the mac’n’cheese version they ate. How often they brought some take away with them home, but they made sure it was nutritious enough and almost always added vegetables or salad of some kind. It was the time consuming things they tended to ignore. Given the nature of the food, it didn’t take them long to have it ready, calling Hannah to the table, smiling when she showed up, doll in tow. Listening to her tell them all about what she had been doing in school that day, and about how she was willing to give math a chance, but only if it continued to include things like pies and cookies.
“At least then you know there is some use to it,” she stated.
“Yeah, speaking of,” Ian started clearing off the table. “Which one should we start with?”
“The big one,” she beamed. “I can help. If you give me the plates, I can carry them to the table.”
“Oh, you’re a big girl now,” he praised with a smile, handing her three of the dessert plates. “There you go honey.” She took them to the table, going back for forks, while he carried a pitcher of lemonade as well as the larger pie.
“That looks positively amazing,” Louise praised. “Good thing you helped your dad make that one, or who knows what might have happened.”
“Dad is good,” she shrugged. “He can make good pies mom.”
“I’m sure he can,” she agreed. “Now, what kind of pie is this, huh?”
“It’s a pie chart,” Hannah beamed. “So you know how many parts of the pie is what, cause that’s really what a pie chart tells you. Dad said so. So when you have the pie, you know how many sixes of peaches are in the pie.”
Louise blinked, trying to follow, and Ian nodded to the board that they had moved out of the way but not yet carried back up to the study. “Oh, I see,” she nodded. “So, I need to use the pie chart to see what kind of pie it is?”
“No, the pie is the pie chart,” Hannah shook her head. “It’s one pie, but the pie is six slices. And it’s three sixes of peaches, and two sixes blueberries and then only one six cherries.”
“You put all three in one pie?” she frowned, looking at her husband who simply gave a grin and a shrug.
“It’s a pie chart, showing how much of each is in the pie. Of course we put all three in it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a proper pie chart, would it?”
“I assumed that was what the small pies were for,” she mused.
“We did that too, but that’s a different pie,” Hannah beamed. “We’re going to eat them later, aren’t we dad?”
“Yeah, tomorrow,” he confirmed. “And maybe a small slice before bedtime.”
“Yes please,” Hannah bobbed her head up and down.
“Do they all come with that much energy?” Ian asked, pointing towards her with his fork.
“Pretty much, especially when someone feeds them a lot of sugar, like cookies, and pies,” she teased while Ian did his best to look innocent. It worked, wasn’t that the important thing? She’d gone from hating the concept of math and pie chart, to seeing how they worked and having a workable understanding of them.
“This is great dad,” Hannah beamed, cherry stains on her cheek, blueberry on her lips and mumbling around a mouthful of peach pie. “If you want, you can explain it to me again.”
“Yeah, your mom might have some opinion about that,” he mused.
“I might, but it is a very good pie, you did good, both of you,” she praised.
“So you think my teaching methods are okay then?”
“They work,” she nodded. “But good look when she comes to geometry…” Taking another forkful of her pie, she enjoyed the way her daughter giggled as well as the slightly frazzled and almost panicked look on his face.
Yeah, that probably would prove something of a challenge…
Please comment, Jeremy Cricket is hungry.....