“Ugh, what!? This is impossible!”
Milo was struggling with 5 digit subtraction using the Maths Buddy program. He started out confident; he had this topic nailed a couple weeks ago. But he was muddling up the rules of borrowing, so he wasn’t getting the right answers and his frustration was mounting.
“Hang on, don’t go past that problem, let’s work it out so you can see what you’re doing wrong,” I advised. Too late, he’d already skipped past the wrong answer to try again on the next problem.
“What!” he burst out. “This keyboard isn’t working!”
“What do you mean, the keyboard isn’t working?” ….but he’d already moved to the next problem. “Write this one out on your paper so you can work it out,” I advised.
“Is this right?”
“Well, let’s check it by adding your answer to the smaller number,” I suggested. I’ve never been that quick at mental math. “Nope, it’s not quite right.”
“Yes it IS!” He typed in his answer and the red X appeared. “Arg, this is stupid! Mom, you gave me the wrong answer!”
“Milo, hun, I haven’t given you any answers.”
“The computer is wrong!”
I laughed out loud. “Milo, if you don’t stop and learn why you’re getting the wrong answers, you’re never going to get them right.”
We repeated this conversation 5 more times. No joke. FIVE TIMES. He clearly didn’t appreciate the humor in the situation. Each round he might look at his paper and listen to an explanation for a few seconds before deciding that he knew it well enough and carrying on. Fortunately, Maths Buddy doesn’t let him move on to the next level until he gets more than 85% of the problems right, so the natural consequence of his hard headedness was that he kept having to repeat the problem set, and he kept failing. Eventually I moved into the kitchen and quietly ducked down behind the counter. I saw him stand up in the chair and scan for me, then return to the computer, muttering and griping.
About five minutes later he announced success. “FINALLY!” he groaned. “Mom! Mom? Mom! Where are you?” After a round of the house he found me crouched behind the cupboard, reading. “I’m done, let’s go to the skate park.”
The next day at work I stared at my computer screen. Somehow the spray management software was saying that after we used Ascend on four different occasions, the inventory was higher than when we started out a month ago. I scratched my head. I pulled out the history to validate. 0.436 of a 5L unit was still greater than 0.352 of a 5L unit. “Impossible!” I exclaimed. “The computer is wrong!” Then I thought of Milo and his Maths Buddy…..but this time I really did think the computer was wrong. Could the calculator in the software have gone haywire?
Tonight I told Milo that something funny had happened at work. My computer was doing three digit subtraction and it was getting it wrong.
“Well Mom, you should use your head, not a calculator!” he advised.
Touche, little man.