Is it just me, or is math a lot harder these days?
Things aren't supposed to get better with age, at least in most cases they're not. There's wine, of course, that ages with tremendous dignity, peaks, and then starts to slowly fade. (I wasn't aware of the whole peaking, then slowly dying wine life-cycle until I saw the 2004 film "Sideways," which is probably in my top 20 all-time best flick list.)
Antiques, whether it's a piece of solid oak furniture or a classic car, get better with age, or at least they're worth more money. When they were new they weren't antiques, obviously, so if something is in super shape and was high-quality to begin with, certain people will pay a premium for it. You know, that whole “mint” condition thing.
Humans aren't really supposed to get better with age. That's not the way our biology is designed. The most depressed among us will say that from the moment we're born we're slowly dying and, gosh, isn't that a fun thought? But it's sort of true; you’ll never be as young as the day you were born. (Although the person-who-formely-looked-like-mid-50s-Madonna is challenging that notion with her human growth hormone injections.)
So, do we get the most out of the one life we're allowed on this planet? We can sky-dive from a plane, rescue a drowning toddler, travel the world, win the lottery or quarterback our team to a Super Bowl championship, but does that mean we've really lived? That we've really gotten the most out of the hand of cards we were dealt?
We certainly don't use our brains to the fullest. It's been said by people who may or may not know what they're talking about that if we don't stimulate our brain to the max as children, there might be pockets in our gray matter that for the rest of our lives are never even tapped. There's never a spark in those dark reaches of our mind, because when those areas were ready to flicker to life, we were watching "Jackass 3" or something of similar cinematic significance.
And even if we do give our brains all they can handle, apparently we only use about 5 percent of their capacity. Just imagine that; well, you probably can't since, like me, 95 percent or so of your brain isn't worth a bowl of tapioca pudding. But I bet you can recite entire scenes verbatim from the latest Judd Apatow-directed flick.
Then, around age 30, that tapioca pudding between our ears really hits the fan. For men, it's said, when we hit the big 3-0, we hold microscopic nanoseconds of silence 3 million times per day, one for each brain cell that tells us for one last time to hit the brakes because the light just turned red, and then fizzles and dies.
Women lose a ton of brain cells daily, too, but men are apparently on a much faster track to la-la land than they are.
In our house, I have two words to say to that: Thank you, Jesus. (I realize that appears to be three words, but in the time it took me to try to differentiate between the numbers 2 and 3, around 5,000 more dead brain cells oozed out of my ears.)
I think my wife should be studied in a lab somewhere, because I think she’s getting smarter with age. Sure, she's still hot and all and in better shape today than maybe she's ever been, but I'm referring to her brain. It's operating at such a high level it's downright erotic.
She'll tell you she was no scholar, whether it was high school or college. In college my grades compared to hers were like comparing Will Hunting to Chuckie Sullivan in “Good Will Hunting.” (That was Ben Affleck’s character.)
But being a mom has energized her mind, and suddenly she's some kind of math whiz.
If you're a parent with a kid in junior high or high school, or have been one recently, you know how important it is to be smarter than maybe your parents had to be when you were an adolescent. You have to out-smart your kids, too, obviously.
I recall my math days. In eighth grade math, I recall gazing at the cute girls' butts seated in their desks, and getting by with B grades. In ninth grade, I recall being petrified by my introduction to algebra, then hanging in there and doing fine. Same for geometry in my sophomore year. Algebra II my junior year was smooth sailing the first semester, and then the rug got yanked from under me during second semester, and my grades fell of the cliff. And that was it. I managed to get through college algebra and considered my days of having to know much of anything about that subject behind me.
Not to be, of course. The math our seventh grader - in an advanced math course - is doing...I don't recall ever doing. If I was a single parent, my lack of ability to assist him in any way probably would have resulted in child welfare people taking him away a long time ago.
But my wife, she's on fire. She's asking his teacher to send home extra worksheets so she can help him understand the really hard stuff, and when she gets a practice problem correct, she likes to let out a little shriek from the dining room table.
Me??I’ll eagerly help our fifth-grader with his math, but, I must admit, that’s getting a little challenging, too.
So I just kind of sit in the living room, reading a book or magazine, and wait until one of them maybe needs help with his English homework. But, like their dad, they’re writing geniuses, so my wait is an endless one.