Monday, April 27, 2009

Homework Sounds

As I type this, Tonks is struggling with math. I worked with her for a while, but it's a series of problems that totally push my panic buttons. It's physics.

That's right--her 9th grade basic algebra class is using quadratic equations to do physics story problems. And people say that her school's reputation for academics is inflated. I say HA!

But I couldn't get through to her. We sat for easily 20 minutes working on a problem involving throwing a ball up into the air at 144 feet/second from the top of a 100 foot building. We needed to find the highest point the ball reached. With the formulas we had, we could solve for time, but then we had to plug the time back into the original formula to find the height. And she just couldn't get hold the idea of time and height being different.

Being 15 is hard today. She came home from school wounded by harsh words from classmates, upset and processing her emotions. Math on top of that is exhausting. While sitting with me, her brain literally shut down.

Now, I have been really good about sticking with Tonks and her math. I have walked her through weeks worth of math homework, but this one is at that intersection of math and physics where I am weakest. I never truly got command of the topic, and my teacher routinely forgot to include all the data in his test questions. Which didn't help.

So, bless his wonderful self, Capt. Sweetie came home and stepped in. And I cannot tell you how good it is to hear Tonks giggling, and even occasionally saying "Oh!" in that surprised voice that means she understands something that she didn't before. To hear her speaking calmly and rationally about manipulating her numbers is like water in the desert. The sound is muted and happy, as they are going quietly about the business of launching projectiles off imaginary buildings at ridiculous speeds and then calculating the time.

This is the happy and productive sound of learning. This is what education should be, in my opinion; the pleasure of opening one's mind to new things and gaining new understanding. Why can't it be like this more often?

Alternatively, wouldn't it be great if you could study physics by taking your rocket launcher and stopwatch to the top of the 100 foot tall building and just shoot stuff up?

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