Saturday, November 17, 2012

Formula for Success

We're having a bit of an issue with my youngest son these days. Nothing major, thank goodness; it's just that he's becoming (gulp) quite the math maniac. It's true that Riley's always had an affinity for numbers. I mean, this is the kid who, if you use the conversational convention of rounding answers like "it's 3:15-ish" or "there are about 20 people here", will correct you to the precise minute or number of attendees. "Actually, he'll say in a deadly serious tone, "it's three-thirteen." Or you'll see his head bobbing gently as he counts the bodies and murmurs, "18 people." Yeah, sorta cute...a smidge annoying, but I always chalk it up to "he'll grow up to be a biologist or an engineer, where exact measurements will prove critical to his work." That usually keeps me from acting on my desire to chuck rolled-up paper projectiles at him (how many? about 4...or maybe 5...) like an exasperated kid mocking the class geek.

So, one day a very official looking letter came home in a sealed envelope, from the Counselor at his school. I was instantly on alert--was there a problem? Did he have a situation so dire he needed to discuss it with a professional? Why didn't I know anything about this??? I ripped open the envelope with trepidation and scanned the typewritten message: "Your child has been invited"...blah blah blah..."great opportunity"...blah blah..."participate in Math Olympiad". Whew! He's not in trouble, he's just a...big honkin' math nerd. Now, I immediately envisioned how this could easily go either way--he'd be excited and proud, or horrified and embarrassed. (What I actually heard in my head was him shrieking "Go to school early? For extra math? You've got to be kidding me, NO WAY!) Thus I began plotting how to persuade him that this would be both super-cool, and interesting. I needn't have worried. When I told him about the note, he pumped his fist with an enthusiastic "yessssss!" as his entire face lit up. Oh-kay, then, looks like you'll be spending some quality time on Tuesday mornings exercising your "logic and problem-solving skills" with some of your 4th-grade buds. Have at it, son.

Since that fateful day, it seems we've been besieged by digits. Everything has the potential to become an equation. For example, when the guys in our family did the Color Run with a group of friends, Riley's soccer coach (whose son happens to be a close pal and classmate of Riley's...and also a fellow...mathlete--ha!) teased the boys that while they jogged, they should practice some word problems. Without missing a beat, Riley piped up with, "Okay, if 8 people each throw 3 colored packets at you, how many colors would that be?" Sigh. You just never know anymore when you're going to be tested, so you've gotta stay sharp at all times. (I, personally, downloaded a free game on my Kindle where you fill in all the possible blank equations with a given a row of numbers. Challenging, but fun! Once again, I have to wonder where he gets his Dork Genes? Just can not imagine...) It's fine, though, as he's obviously chosen to embrace his inner math scholar. He frequently throws out random number sentences that makes us laugh--Me: "Did you enjoy the tacos I made for dinner?" Riley: "They're okay, I like them, oh, about 70%" (Yes, he does talk this way...) And his explanation? A shrug and an almost-apologetic "Well, I am in Math Olympiad..." And the good times just keep on multiplying. That's it, I have nothing else to add. (Sorry! I promise I'm done...for now...)

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