I've become very good at faking the Big O – as in "Oh, you have math homework? How fun!!"
I mistakenly thought that once I left school I would never had to do another word problem again. Then I became a mom. Now the most dreaded 2 lines on a school night are "Mom, I don't get this. Can you help me with my math homework?"
I would rather wear Lady Gaga's meat dress into a dog kennel than sit down at the kitchen table and be reminded on a regular basis that I am not smarter than a 5th grader. Part of the problem is that, for me at least, a word problem requires total focus. I can't make dinner, pack the next day's lunchbox, feign interest in my husband's day and figure out how many chicken and how many pigs there are in the barnyard if there are 26 animal heads and 70 feet among them all.
Everybody knows that chickens and pigs do not have feet. And if your mom is 45 and she hasn't done math in 25 years, the probability of her really helping you with that math problem is a big fat zero.
Apparently I'm not alone. An Intel survey last year of 561 parents found that moms and dads would rather talk to their kids about sex and drugs than about math and science.
My math phobia goes way back, far beyond the 10 fingers I still use for counting. I'm a word person. Even when I manage to devote my undivided attention to math homework, I end up getting distracted by the grammatical errors I almost always find on the page.
I don't want to pass on my math phobia to my kids, but it's getting harder and harder to act excited about converting fractions to decimals. Exponents, ordered pairs, surface areas – they all make my head swim. I spent one recent night helping my daughter figure out how much fencing was needed for about a dozen oddly shaped yards. Robert Frost was wrong. Good fences do not make good neighbors. And they really can ruin a Tuesday night.