Let X Equal Everything I’ve Forgotten About Math

One of the greatest things about being the parent of teenage children is having to help them with their homework, and realizing in the course of doing so that you don’t remember a damn thing about any of the stuff you were supposed to have learned when you were a teenager. I guess i could split the difference and focus on teaching them in advance that by the time they have teenage kids of their own, they’ll have forgotten everything, too. However, that seems like the sort of thing everyone should really experience for themselves.

As a parent, one of the things you set out to do is make sure that your kids are better equipped to deal with the world than you are. However, the problem with that goal is that there comes a point (often the point at which you’re trying and failing to help your teenage children with their homework) when you’re forced to admit that your kids are already smarter than you and have nowhere to go but up.

I have a kind of half-assed recollection of enjoying more of high school than i hated, but i wouldn’t call my high school years a rousing academic success by any stretch of the imagination. I had this problematic little positive feedback loop going on in my life, in which i never studied or did homework (typically being too busy with things like books, movies, gaming, and just generally slacking off) even as i always completed consistently A-level work in the classes i liked, and got by with C+/B grades in the classes i didn’t like, and so had no incentive to study or do homework. For me, those years (specifically, grade 10, half of grade 11, grade 12) were more about figuring out who i was and discovering that i had a kernel of creativity in me that was ripe to be grown. It was about discovering that i didn’t have to be afraid of having ideas — which, when you’ve spent your whole life in a town of 2,000 people, is a more daunting task than it might sound.

I learned what i learned in class, a lot of which is still with me (my attempts to remember it as it relates to the grade 10 math curriculum notwithstanding). But from my best teachers (about a half-dozen all told across the junior and senior high years), i also learned how to think. I learned how to engage the world in an intellectual sense, not just an academic sense. In the most general parlance, i spent high school avoiding learning a lot of what i was supposed to be learning in order to learn how to learn, and how to keep on learning long after the high school years were done. And there’s no doubt in my mind now that this learning has served me a lot better over the last 27 years than would have a slightly more impressive transcript or the ability to remember the quadratic formula off the top of my head.