Many moons ago, I was forcibly uprooted from the co-ed, hippie, Montessori learning enclave of my early childhood and enrolled by my parents in Catholic all-girls’ school.  Whereas once I had daily worn teal-and-black animal-print high tops and tee-shirts celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was suddenly thrust into a world of uniform plaid jumpers, saddle-shoes, and dour-faced nuns.

Orderly rows of assigned desks replaced the colorful carpets on which I was accustomed to lounging.  I was no longer permitted to while away the hours in the library, obsessively consuming comics and books on the Salem witch trials, or scribbling in my journal.  Instead, study time was strictly scheduled and misbehavior was publicly punished.  I was forced to take math beyond pushing a desultory bead around an abacus.

Math, in fact, was the fundamental cause of this disorienting change of course, as recent testing demonstrated that my nine-year-old self possessed the vocabulary of the average college student (thanks to my insatiable appetite for reading) and the math skills of your average three-year-old sorting out Cheerios at the breakfast table.  It seems my parents found this troubling, and despite the fact that I could adeptly weave hammocks from plastic six-pack rings and was extremely disturbed by the Gulf War, some basic educational tenets were lacking in my development.

This alleged inability (or total unwillingness) to learn math was also what prompted my mother to chauffeur me, whining, to Kumon twice a week, while my dad suffered my crying fits over everything from fractions to basic Algebra.  If you are wondering if the extra-curricular Kumon teaching methods are effective, I can only say that my math skills sped from 0 to 60 and the school was later that same year forced to furnish me with a sixth-grade math book – this for the girl who, months prior, had barely mastered basic addition.  In my experience, Kumon is the steroids of arithmetic, and for your math-averse child, akin to a prolonged, pinpointed torture session.  Obviously, I plan to subject my own children to it in the future, when they’ve been very bad.    (more…)

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