Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mathematics of parenting

Yesterday my youngest son, a fifth grader, was sitting on his bed doing homework. He's had a pretty big work load lately, so I went to check on him. He was working on his math work, finding the area of different shapes and solids.

His current problem was to find the area of a trapezoid. I said, "Wow, a trapezoid? That one looks hard." He proceeded to show me all the strategies for divining the area: "You find the area of the rectangle and then the two triangles on the ends; you could move the triangle from one end, flip it, and put on the other end making a larger rectangle; or you could turn it into a larger rectangle, then subract twice the area of one triangle."

Neat. I pursued the conversation. "It sounds like you really know your stuff. I love geometry. You know, a lot of these same principals are the building blocks of calculus, where you're finding the area under a curve."

"Oh yeah, I know about calculus. It was discovered by Sir Isaac Newton."

Oh no. My thoughts raced. Everything from 'I'm a bad parent' to 'what are these people teaching my son?!' (I know this teacher, and she's great.)

You see, the question of who discovered the Calculus is the 'Yankees vs Red Sox' debate of mathematics. As I've already stated, I fall firmly on the side of Gottfried Wilhelm Liebniz on this debate. Why I prefer Leibniz doesn't really matter, as i said, it's a long-standing debate and my allegience owes more to my schooling in philosophy, than mathematical truths. The Rationalists still remain my favorites, and since this is my blog, I don't have to be politically correct and proclaim him to be the "co-founder" of calculus.

So here I am, faced with one of my first instances of having a different perspective from my children. Next thing you know, I'll be hating on their music and telling them they need haircuts. I am happy to see that my children will grow up thinking for themselves and developing their own thoughts and beliefs.

But damn it, they'd better get this one right.

Now reading: Changeless by Gail Carriger, the second book of The Parasol Protectorate

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