fractions by juleshg

1 Mar

Sam closed his eyes tightly, took a deep breathe and ran his hand through his curly hair one more time.

“No Sarah, look at it again… “

Sarah sighed and rolled her eyes.

“I am never going to get this.  It is useless.  Just face it: I am never going to be good at math.”

As much as Sam loved spending time with his daughter he dreaded the homework hour.    It was the one time of day when he felt that he was failing her.

Since the divorce he saw Sarah only every second week as he and Sharon shuttled the girl back and forth from one home to the other.  When they first separated they told the teary-eyed girl that she would have two homes now, but the transition had been difficult and there were times when Sam wondered if she felt that she had a home at all.

The split had been amicable and now he and Sharon were able to sit down and discuss issues calmly.  They had made a decision to try keep similar routines during their ‘Sarah weeks’:  waking up at the same time each morning, eating meals at the same time and sitting at the table for an hour each night after dinner to work on homework.  He wondered if Sharon was better being a tutor and he immediately felt insecure.

“Sarah, you are a smart girl and math is in your blood.” As the words came out of his mouth he wondered if they were true or if was Sarah more like her mother and gifted in other areas.

For Sam math was almost sacred.  It was his favourite subject throughout school and when he graduated there was no doubt in his mind that he wanted to continue studying it, researching new theories and sharing his passion with the next generation.  Today he stood in front of a lecture hall of graduate students and spoke for two solid hours about John Forbes Nash and his work in differential geometry.  You could have heard a pin drop as he discussed the intricacies of each theory and how they were still used and admired today.

Now, only four hours later, he was pulling his hair out trying to explain simple fractions to an 8-year old.

“Listen, maybe it will help if we use an example you can relate to.”  He wrapped an arm around his daughter’s small, humped shoulders and gave her a little hug hoping to turn her mood around.  “What is your favourite thing to do?”

“Shop.”

“Really?”

“Yes, and I don’t think fractions are going to help there unless you want to buy me half a CD or one third of a t-shirt.”

As she spoke Sam was taken aback by the tone of her voice which sounded more like a rebellious teenager than the beautiful little girl sitting in front of him now.  Where had she learned that tone?  How had she grown so quickly without him even noticing?

“No but don’t you prefer to get one-third or one quarter off the regular price?”

Sarah sighed again and sat up reluctantly to look at the page in front of her.  “I guess…”

It was a small victory but he relished it nonetheless and knew that he would replay this moment in his head next week when the table was empty and he was feeling like only half a parent.

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5 Responses to “fractions by juleshg”

  1. jmforceton March 1, 2010 at 2:59 am #

    “spoke for two solid hours about John Forbes Nash”
    Great reference, I read “The Beautiful Mind” a few years ago on vacation at Glacier National Park.

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

    Thank you! Math is not my forte (the understatement of the year).
    In the movie when Nash explained his theory using the example of the women at the dance I was fascinated but could not understand how math played a role. I undestood the concept but could not imagine how one would assign numbers, calculations and formulas to that scenario.
    I am much more Sarah!

    • jmforceton March 1, 2010 at 3:50 am #

      An interesting related quote below. Nash created “Game Theory” after the bar incident, later used by the Pentagon and the rest of the world. In game theory your actions are decided by what you think the other person will do. When he tried to pick up the, now famous, woman and failed, he later realized he hadn’t thought about what she was thinking.

      “Back to picking up women. In the movie, the fictional John Nash described a strategy for his male drinking buddies, but didn’t look at the game from the woman’s perspective, a mistake no game theorist would ever make. A female economist I know once told me that when men tried to pick her up, the first question she asked was: ”Are you a turkey?” She usually got one of three answers: ”Yes,” ”No,” and ”Gobble-gobble.” She said the last group was the most interesting by far. Go figure.”

  3. jadamthwaite March 1, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    I really felt for Sam with the ‘half a parent’ line… and I felt the small victory too. It must be so hard to split the time with your child like that.

  4. phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    Very nice use of fractions throughout; it’s a very clear image of divorce, life turned into fractions and made incomplete because each parent only gets some time with their child. I liked Sam’s attempt to find a way to connect fractions to something Sarah enjoys, and I can just imagine him using the sale connection and running away with it in the future as he tries to make her understand the importance of math.

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