About midway through this summer, I had the thought that the kids should be drilling their math skills. I’m not talking about just practicing math. We do that all the time with games (ala Games for Educators) and challenges and whatnot.
I’m talking about old-fashioned drilling, so that when someone says “7+6”, the number “13” immediately pops into your head.
My wife didn’t like the idea. In fact, she was dead set against it. As the conversation progressed, she got all high-falutin’ on me, saying things like “memorization stops them from learning the methodology” and “you know, I am a teacher. I do know about things like this.”
Suffice it to say, that left me no choice but to dig in my heels.
I pointed out that the kids already had the techniques down, that this was just a question of speed. It is, after all, a lot easier to do math problems if you’re not having to think through every little addition.
It sounded reasonable to me, but she had dug her heels in every bit as firmly as I had.
Our children were at the dinner table as we had this conversation. They had started out cheering for me, thinking that I was coming up with something fun to do. As the conversation had progressed, though, they’d realized what I was saying and were now firmly on my wife’s side.
It was three against one, which are never good odds, so I decided to change the rules.
“I’m not talking about flash cards,” I said. “It could be something fun.”
My wife rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. She knew I was playing to the crowd, abandoning logic and pursuing the populist vote.
“Fun?” my youngest said. “How could it be fun?”
I grinned, trying to come up with something. “Well.” I walked over beside my oldest. “Let’s say that I’m standing here, with my hand here.” I held my hand about two feet from the back of his head, in the perfect head-slapping position (click here for details).
My oldest’s eyebrows shot off the top of his head and he started giggling. “No, no, no…”
“Then I ask him a math problem.”
“No, no, no!”
“And if he answers before my hand hits his head, he won’t get whacked.”
At this point, both kids were laughing almost uncontrollably. My wife was wearing her “are you really doing this?” expression.
“Ready?” I said.
“No, no, no,” my oldest gasped.
“7+8,” I said.
Without trying to answer, the big guy swung his head forward to avoid any possible whacking. Unfortunately, he was sitting at the kitchen table, and swinging his head forward meant doing a faceplant into the wood.
It was a solid, and slightly frightening, thunk, but he came up laughing. “Ow.”
My youngest just about fell out of his chair, he was laughing so hard. Even my wife was giggling. Horrified, but giggling.
“Okay,” I said. “Maybe that’s not such a good idea.”