I had a very factual, practical post planned for today. Until, I was helping an little girl with her math. She was really frustrated. And she wanted to give up. I remember staring at math problems so confused and near to tears because I just couldn’t figure out how to complete the division problem.
So, I knew that my next few words were going to impact this young girl’s attitude about math. I knew that my words would carry weight, because I keenly remember my frustration and all the times that I wanted to give up. I wasn’t going to let her give up. And I let her know, “Math was always really hard for me. In fact, I was never very good at it. But you just have to keep working at it. You may never be good at it, but you have to work hard at it. So, don’t give up.”
Her face brightened at my honest admission concerning math. I could almost see her thoughts, “I’m not the only one, this teacher had problems with math too!” She looked almost surprised that I would have math problems and frustrations.
We worked through a number of problems, and I was careful to keep my voice even and light. We were going to conquer this math together and we were going to walk each step of the way…even if it took us forever. Thankfully, it didn’t take forever, because I don’t much care for numbers! Even so, we weren’t going to give up.
There are bigger things in life than division and multiplication. There are harder times to walk through and greater trials to be patient in. Math is just the beginning. But all I tell her is “Keep working hard at it! Don’t give up!”
Because when I was in third grade, math was my trial. And to be told kindly and gently not to give up at the beginning is better than hearing it after you have already given up countless times.
Math is still confusing to me. I still use a calculator, and sometimes I even use my fingers. Numbers jumble in my mind and the configuration and semblance of numeric equations don’t make sense to me at all. Math hurts! But I’m not allowed to give up.
Health insurance frustrates me, but giving up is not an option.
Chronic pain is taxing on my body, but giving up is not an option.
Juggling relationships and friendships is hard, but giving up on people is never an option.
And so I scribble down these words for every third grader in America…..
Dear Third Grader,
Math is just the beginning, but learn perseverance now. I’ll help you as you figure out those problems, but don’t give up. Don’t set up your walls and rip out your eraser in frustration. Because we are going to learn this together.
Who cares if we are old and still have to pull out our plastic calculators! At least we never gave up.