three oranges by mpeonies

28 Feb

“Dad, pass me three oranges!” my daughter shouted with a look of fury. She returned to glaring at a worksheet—it had to be math. With English and history, she always wore a calm face, a conqueror’s face.

I tossed three oranges at her, one by one, which she seated slowly on the table. “One… two… three…” she began whispering to herself. I dropped my pen from grading exams now. “Two… two-thirds…hm.” She grabbed one orange and hid it behind her back. I watched it slip out of her hand and wobble on the floor. “Hurray! TWO-THIRDS! OF AN ORANGE! OH, FRACTIONS. IN YOUR FACE!” She began dancing, clumsily juggling two oranges.

I looked at her, dumbfounded. I wasn’t sure, then, whether to watch her bask in her false glory, or to ruin it all with the truth.

“H…honey… Elisa…” I purposely lowered my voice, muting it almost because I never knew how to translate my teaching mannerisms into interactions with my daughter when she needed help with math. I was afraid I’d call her stupid, reducing her to tears, and then she’d hate math more than she already did. And that was a lot. It took up more than two-thirds of her hating capacity, maybe.

A week ago, when I had tried to explain the commutative property, she grew frustrated, dribbling her fingers against the table, a bad habit of hers. “Why do people change the order of these numbers?! So they’re more fun? FUN?! MATH?! FUN?!” You can’t add those two together!” she grabbed the paper and dashed for the phone. Within a minute, her mother’s voice would sound through the phone.

Elisa winded down now, the exhilaration slightly left in her walk as she left the kitchen, until she popped her head back in. “Oh, dad, did you say something before?”

“Oh, no no.” I cringed.

I returned soon to grading the exams for the Analysis course. Red marks, slashes, and failing grades. I picked up the orange on the floor, the voice coming loudly through the phone again.

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3 Responses to “three oranges by mpeonies”

  1. jadamthwaite February 28, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

    I love the oranges: they’re such a strong image. And I really felt for Elisa. I think she and I could have bonded over maths!

  2. jmforceton March 1, 2010 at 3:13 am #

    I liked your opening sentences. They pull you in.

    “Dad, pass me three oranges!” my daughter shouted with a look of fury. She returned to glaring at a worksheet—it had to be math. With English and history, she always wore a calm face, a conqueror’s face.

  3. phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    You did a nice job of capturing the things they just don’t get (even if Elisa *thinks* she’s got this one); fractions and teaching his daughter math is currently beyond both of them. Sam seems so very helpless as he struggles to deal with her and her math homework.

    “It took up more than two-thirds of her hating capacity, maybe.” Made me laugh. 😀

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