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If You Believe…

As I’m trying to get the kids lunches packed, homework in backpacks, shoes, jackets, gloves, toques, and who knows what else ready to go by 8:35 this morning, I noticed one of my daughter’s math worksheets lying on the kitchen counter.  Normally, my eyes are not particularly drawn to anything math-related (I think my kids are already pretty much bumping up against the ceiling of their father’s mathematical competence in grade two!), but for some reason I spied the following question and answer:

Q: Suppose you add 20 to a number. Predict how the number will change.

A: it will chang if you blive in it

Spelling issues aside, I’m guessing this wasn’t exactly the kind of answer her teacher was looking for!

Help me out—is this:

  • The gradual Oprah-fication of my child’s brain
  • The pernicious effects of one too many Disney movies
  • The remnants of last week’s Sunday School lesson
  • Other

Whatever caused this little burst of inspiration to emerge from the weird and wonderful neural pathways of my daughter’s beautiful little brain, I’ve been chuckling about it on and off all day…

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. I would have guessed Obama-fication, “change you can believe in”…

    January 29, 2009
  2. jc #

    Ah… Ken beat me to it.

    January 29, 2009
  3. Of course! How could I have missed that one?

    January 29, 2009
  4. J #

    Hey Ryan. Isn’t it too early to have Claire reading Alastair MacIntyre?

    If I were Claire’s teacher, I would give her an A because she’s more right than she realizes. In grade 5 I remember asking the question, “Who said 20 would mean x-many of apples (or oranges, or whatever)? Why was the word ‘twenty’ arbitrarily assigned to this collection of bottle caps? Why not ‘oogle-be-doo’? Why is twenty twenty? Why isn’t it eleven?” (This is probably why I only got a C for a final grade, and forever after the math sciences were less than appealing to me.)

    If only I had been able to read Michael Polanyi’s post-critical theory of knowledge, then I would have been able to make the faith steps that are necessary to learn the math language and thus convert to the math science worldview, and fellowship with the math community. But woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips that hath ended up studying theology and philosophy…

    January 30, 2009
  5. Paul Johnston #

    Add 20 people to 1 island and apparently you reach the apex of modern television creativity.

    Add 20 IQ pts to a rock and you get an atheist.

    Augment 2 female breasts by 20 lbs and apparently all gender issues are made better…

    It’s all relative, really….

    (With regard to the first observation, I’m so missing Gilligan!!)

    January 30, 2009
  6. Well, J, you got me. We’ve secretly been reading Polanyi’s post-critical theory of knowledge at bedtime for the past few months. Narnia just wasn’t cutting it for the kids anymore—they needed something a bit meatier.:)

    (Why is it that I have precisely zero difficulty imagining a young J asking that question about “oogle-be-doo’s” of his teacher?)

    January 30, 2009
  7. mdaele #

    wow she got you too
    she’s stalling I tell ya – step up and call her bluff

    Claire by the way by the way next time use your Daddy’s blog for answer quotes – he’s a far better speller than me…


    January 30, 2009
  8. mdaele #

    and he doesn’t tend to repeat a bunch of words either

    January 30, 2009
  9. Claire doesn’t have time to read Dad’s blog—she’s too busy with Polanyi…

    January 30, 2009
  10. Mike C. #

    Reminds me of a story, which I have shamelessly pulled off the net, and copied here. Enjoy — maybe a Nobel Prize is in the future!!

    During a physics exam one day, young Niels Bohr was asked to “describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer.”

    “You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer,” he replied, “and lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building.”

    This answer so incensed the examiner that Bohr did not pass his exam. When he appealed, the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide the case. The arbiter concluded that the answer was correct but did not display any knowledge of physics. Bohr was called in and given six minutes to provide a proper answer.

    For five minutes he sat in silence, thinking. When the arbiter reminded him that time was running out, Bohr replied that he had several solutions, but could not decide which to use. At last, he gave this reply:

    “You could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5g x t squared.

    “Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper’s shadow, and work out the height of the skyscraper using proportional arithmetic.

    “You could also tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T = 2 pi sqroot (l / g).

    “If you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building.

    “But the best way would be to knock on the janitor’s door and say, ‘If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper!'”

    February 2, 2009
  11. Great story Mike! Maybe some day Claire will learn the brilliant story behind her response too. Here’s hoping…

    February 2, 2009

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