Expat family challenges - are you smarter than a sixth grader? Defining Moves - The art of Successful Relocation

Are you smarter than a sixth grader? Expat family challenges.

Expat family challenges - are you smarter than a sixth grader? Defining Moves - The art of Successful RelocationThey say that you never really discover your true strength until you are tested.

So far, we have put the family unit through multiple moves, repeated natural disasters and the odd civil emergency. Now that we live in the somewhat more serene environment of San Francisco our tests are a little more homegrown, but none the less daunting..

The current challenge testing Yates Family Unity is a particularly tricky 6th Grade maths problem. The Feisty One brought it home from school yesterday, and it has been malevolently sitting on the dining room table like a poisoned chalice ever since.

I have a very arbitrary approach to these types of problems. An A level in Maths and 10 years of teaching have honed my skills – I take a long hard look at it, and if I haven’t solved it in the first 20 minutes, I apply one of two alternative solutions

  1. “Ask your Father” (interestingly, he’s only ever ‘Father’ with homework problems – the rest of the time it’s a more familiar Dad, an ironic “Boss” or in matters of household maintenance, ‘Harry Half-A -Job’ ..)
  2. “Talk to your Teacher”, accompanied by a bracing commentary about how teachers “love to be asked questions and are dedicated to their craft” and a firmly worded note (to said Teacher) about the length of time spent struggling over the homework and a plea for clemency/further clarification/the number of a decent tutor.

Last night was completely dominated by algebra. It started at 5 pm, with myself attempting to create a formula for the link between points on the perimeter of a circle and the maximum number of line segments that connect them. And already, I can hear the gritty sounds of your eyes rolling back in your heads. Yes, dear reader, this is apparently a sixth grade problem.

The Other Half (engineer, works with numbers a LOT) and the Wiggy One (just completing Pre Calculus level maths) spent most of their evening in a masculine bonding ritual which attempted to demonstrate the superiority of their gender by succeeding where the females had failed. And they either felt they had a great deal to prove or are far more dedicated than I give them credit for, because they were at it for hours.

Their persistence paid off. At some point after 10pm, they solved the darn thing. I am a little vague on actual time, because like the dedicated parent I am, I had long since abandoned hope, and was happily snoring away in anticipation of another day’s challenges.

The first arrived earlier than expected.

At 5.45 am, the Other Half proudly announced to all that they had vanquished their foe, and that the world was safe. (What he actually said was that he and Tom had both solved it, but the tone he used was more in the slaying dragons line..) Feisty’s response was less euphoric than one might imagine – she gave him a steely eyed gaze, and announced that there was no way Mr B would be happy to see her father’s or brother’s writing on her homework.

As a “Thank you’, it probably needed a little work. The OH looked rather like a kicked puppy as she marched out of the door to undo the damage.

Rubbing out the workings without making a copy first is a mistake we all only make once. Having done an excellent job of wiping the slate clean and covering their tracks, the filling in of the blanks proved a little tricky. And despite having proudly reeled off the various equations the minute he saw my eyes open, the interim activities of shaving and dog care had served to likewise erase them from the brain of the OH.

The cunning design of the safety razor prevents the slitting of one’s own threat, with is probably the only reason that this story has a happy ending. The OH went a funny shade of puce under the shaving foam, and started desperately looking for hidden cameras or any other signs that this was a cruel joke. The Feisty One showed no remorse and remained firmly on her moral high ground with the defense “You shouldn’t have written on my worksheet”..

I stared longingly at the liquor cabinet and wondered who had decided that 6am was too early to start drinking.

So for those parents, geniuses, mathletes and masochists amongst you, here is our patented family bonding activity. I wish you luck. Time taken can be shared in the comments section – anyone under 30 minutes will be required to submit their phone numbers for future reference..


5 thoughts on “Are you smarter than a sixth grader? Expat family challenges.”

  1. It took a lot under 30 minutes – but in fairness I have seen it before (I do teach maths…..). We would set the task to year 7 pupils (11-12 year olds) so pretty comparable – just to make you feel better 🙂 The comments I have from parents (and from Lizzy’s friends) is that this is the normal age for parents to struggle with their children’s homework, so you are not alone!
    Btw – you have my phone number!

  2. Hi Rachel,

    Interesting. Thinking as I type; if there are N nodes, the first joins to N-1 others, the second cannot join back to the first, so joins to N-2 etc. all the way until there is one left. Therefore the answer is the sum of the numbers running from 1 to N-1.

    It is an arithmetic progression so the sum of 1..k values is k(k+1)/2, but as k=N-1 here, the equation must be (N-1)(N-1+1)/2 = (N-1)N/2. so for 6 nodes, there would be 6×5/2=15 lines etc.

    I have not tried drawing it yet, but it looks right.

    Sorry I forgot to note the time 🙂


    PS, you have my number too!

    1. Urghh. I am off to lie down in a darkened room with a cold compress on my forehead. You are all complete smarty-pants.. (Apart from Sandy, who is welcome at my end of the bar at any time.)

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