Thursday, March 26, 2015

14-Year Olds Are Big Toddlers

I made the mistake yesterday of introducing my son to a scientific calculator during our math time. (I say "our", but it's really "his", isn't it?)

That is not to say that he's never seen or used a calculator before. It's just that, at least so far this school year and probably all of last year, he did not use a calculator or if he did, it was just a basic calculator without any fancy things. His math so far has used numbers that I expected him to work it out in his head or on paper.

But the questions yesterday were a little more complicated and I didn't want the focus concepts to be bogged down with his having to do all the calculations (which he's slow at, so maybe I should have).

Problem was: It didn't speed things up AT ALL. O.M.G. It slowed things down ridiculously because it was like letting a toddler loose in a toy store where everything was available to play with.

I wish the calculator had more memory of what he put in it so I could share the sequence with you properly. Let's just say it started out fine, with him learning where the squared button was and how to used the 2ND button to do the opposite of squaring: square root. Okay, well, actually, no, that did get messed up a bit because he went  3242 for 32 + 42, but it was otherwise okay. After that, though, all heck broke loose.

He was pressing anything and everything and then sharing with me the results. (Um, why?) He was supposed to be figuring out angles and sides using the Pythagorean theorem or just from the fact that all angles in a triangle add up to 180. It was supposed to be a review that we'd go through pretty quickly to then tackle the first section from a local textbook dealing with circles, tangents and triangles with the circles and tangents, figuring out missing degrees and sides.

But nooOOOooo.

"Oh, look. Somethingsomething something nPr somethingorother." With giggles.

"Um, yeah, that's for probability which you'll do for grade 12 math [if you live that long]. Can you get back to the question?" (Okay, I admit it, I was laughing with my frustration and laughed just now writing it.)

More giggles from him as he shows me various things that have nothing to do with any of the questions he's supposed to be working on. Giggles from this 5'7"-5'8" 14-year old boy with a darkening upper lip and slightly lower voice that's still changing and occasionally cracking, especially when he laughs.

More pressing of buttons. "Look! Blah blah blah blah-nothing-to-do-with-what-he's-supposed-to-be-doing = 0." (Square root of a negative decimal number to some ridiculous exponent.)

"OMG, would you just do the question??"

Giggles. Pressing this and pressing that and more comments and more not doing one of the first couple of questions. "Look, One og...." I glance over. "That's 'log'." (Yes, I admit, I didn't help any by contributing.) "It looks like a 1." "It's an L. Trust me."

He finally does the question. By this point, it's possible only one question has actually gotten done. I'm not sure. My patience is wearing thin all while I'm actually laughing quite a bit. After some more aimless exploring of the calculator (why do I hear Maria Montessori going, "Tsk, tsk"?), he gets to a question where he has to figure out 'a' from a2 + b2 = c2.

"What am I supposed to do?"

"Use the calculator to figure out a."

Punching things. Not aimless exploring this time, but he seems perplexed.

"I can't find the a."


"On the calculator. I can't find a."


This is not the first question where he's had to find the missing letter value. What is his mind doing??

"You can't just put 'a' in the calculator."

"But you said to use the calculator to figure out a."

Pure literal moment going on negating everything he'd just done before. (What would they do with him in school?) I think it was at this point that I said to him, "Oh my gosh, you are going to be the death of me." Followed by, "You can't put 'a' in the calculator and have it figure it out for you. You have to do it like the other questions, figure out this part [point to paper], then use the calculator to do the calculations to figure out a."


That was not the end of it all. More giggles did end up popping up. It all led to us switching to something else before he'd finished the work I had anticipated him getting done yesterday.

Naturally, when we were all done for the day, he had no further interest in his calculator-exploring pursuits on his own time. I couldn't help thinking of Maria Montessori likening the first part of adolescence (ages 12-15) to the first plane of development (ages 0-3), which, while she was more focused on the intensity of physical and mental development, many have said that behaviourly it matches up, too, making the 14-year old in some respects like the 2-year old.

I looked at the calculator later on and found this on it:


Why? I then remembered his discovering "cos" and giggling as he read it aloud to me.

How old is this boy?

Oh, right: Second toddlerhood.

Something to keep in mind for next time.

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