Sam ran upstairs where I was folding laundry to ask me the trick for remembering the greater-than and less-than arrows. When the arrow looks like an L that means less than, I told him. He only knows the crocodile trick, whatever that is, so he asked me to help Paolo with his homework. I joined Paolo at the table and casually glanced at the directions at the top of the worksheet. They used the crocodile trick, too, so I began my explanation: The crocodile's open mouth always faces the smaller number. It's a great, big, mean crocodile, and he's going to chomp the puny little number. Got it? We worked down half the page before I noticed something was awry. The L-arrows weren't indicating what they should. What the...?
Now, you math geniuses were probably groaning several sentences ago, but I am not one of you. I am of the species Liberalus Articus, and my kind do not understand your strange symbols. My people study dead things and words. So. I re-read the directions and, sure enough, the crocodile chomps the bigger number. Fine, have it your stupid way. Completely mortified, I had to reverse my prior explanation to my trusting child and have him redo the worksheet. Never mind what I just said, I told Paolo, the crocodile isn't mean, really, just hungry, so it's going to chomp the bigger number. If you were really hungry, would you eat two cookies or twelve cookies?
Once homework was done, I lashed out at Sam for putting me in charge of math, when he knew I didn't know the crocodile thing, and he did, and now Paolo is probably totally confused and won't get into college, because these are the types of building blocks an entire education is built on, and I've blown it. He was not surprised at all by my fervor and retaliated by reminding me that he came to get me because he knew his grasp on the subject matter was shaky, and I seemed very sure of myself, and this is what happens to children with two Liberal Arts-educated parents, so we should have known the day was coming when we couldn't help with math and science studies.
Yes, but I didn't expect the day to come while our child is in first grade.