smarter than a 5th grader

got into a boisterous discussion with a 5th grader concerning the definition of Mass.

I don’t usually get interested in that sort of thing beyond this old fat man’s fallback arguments of ‘are you sure?’, ‘don’t you remember?’ & ‘did I say that?’.

Once I’ve used those about 3 times each there is generally so much confusion and frustration that they begin to 1) not like me and 2) go away. This little tyke however, grabbed my attention when he began to differentiate between the stuff the teacher wants him to remember for the test and the stuff he had to look up for himself in order to understand the concepts in play. Diamond in the rough as they say.

I still spun him around in logic circles a few times for the fun of it but it was not a mathematical victory or even a physics victory. Quite honestly the boy has looked at the info this century and I’m giving away about 300 points of blood sugar stupor tonight so playing the game by his rules was not going to get the old man a W this time around. I had to fall back on vocabulary.

The imprecision of today’s English, or more precisely American English, language is widespread and clearly defining and/or explaining any advanced concept is nearly impossible. An even dozen attempts to utilize the word ‘it’ in his definitions resulted in having to throw up his hands in disgust and stomp his feet and start over again with nouns instead of pronouns. Frustration is an excellent weapon against the young; it gives you time to catch up and it feeds on itself. For you gamers out there .. think of frustration as a mental debuff that stacks.

Understanding the concepts is not the same as knowing the formula.
Applying the concepts is not the same as understanding the concepts.
Knowing the crap the teacher will test you on later is not the same as learning.

His momma is armed with a pitchfork, tail and fangs and I don’t see her letting the school stomp out his drive to learn any time soon. He’s obviously going to have issues with being smarter than some of the teachers and its better if you can see that sort of thing coming. The fact that a 5th grader can toss out engineering terms I haven’t heard since college when he’s talking about a bridge made of toothpicks restores some of my hope for the Texas public schools.

He’s all warm and fuzzy inside now that he thinks I was just pulling his chain.
He’s only up 15 min past bedtime so his momma isn’t going to hunt me down.
And I’ll sleep a bit easier tonight because there are still young-uns out there willing to do extra work on their own initiative to learn the cool stuff. His brain is alive and well and our nation’s future is not as dismal as it seemed this morning.

I need some more insulin and a few hours to do some research. I don’t want the little bugger to catch me by surprise again tomorrow.

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Posted on October 21, 2010, in education. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. “Mass” as in Catholic mass? Or “mass”, as in “in space, your weight is zero, but your mass stays constant…”?

  2. yeah I’m not Catholic so “B”

  3. Bright kids with motivation are an awesome thing! Sure I want to know what I *need* to know to pass the test – but I also want to know why it matters!

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