Help! I’m Stuck In First Grade and I Can’t Get Out

This is an excerpt from “Funny You Should Ask”, Book 1 in the Life without a Field Guide Series which is available on Amazon 

If you want to feel completely stupid, go to and try to ace all the activities in anything above Pre-K. I don’t know when you went to school, but I started first grade in 1957. There was no kindergarten in our town and my birthday is in April, so I had to wait until I was almost 7 to go to school. I had been reading since I was 3, but I still had to take off my shoes to count past ten, which Miss McElroy, otherwise a very nice teacher, refused to let me do. Still, back then, first grade math pretty much stopped at simple addition so I didn’t have any trouble with it.

Apparently, things have changed in the educational world since then, if IXL is anything to go by. Daughter and I have a little friendly competition going there, as she reviews her math skills preparatory to launching into 8th grade algebra. Me, I may have to settle for a spot behind Jethro Bodine of the Clampetts, who, if I remember correctly, was a proud graduate of 3rd grade. I can’t get out of first grade, thanks to something they call “Geometry: Count vertices, edges and faces.”  It’s a diabolical little exercise that can lead the spatially impaired amongst us to teeth grinding and hair pulling. I mean, would YOU be able to figure out how many vertices, edges and faces a 3-D triangle has? Hmm? Do you even know where all those things ARE on a triangle? Well, I thought I did, but obviously I was wrong.

I did manage to guess my way to a score of 58, but most of that was pure luck and 70 is a passing grade, so I’m still stuck in first. I thought I’d just ignore that little section as a fluke that I could have pulled off if only my blind spot wasn’t… well, vertices, edges and faces, I guess.  So, enough of the baby stuff, and I went on to logic problems in third grade. Crikey! Here’s the first question:

Lisa is 4 years younger than Gale. Suzanne is 36. Hiram is 2 years younger than Suzanne and 4 years older than Gale. How old is Lisa? I thought I was really hot stuff when I figured out that Lisa is 26, but I really question whether the average 3rd grader would be able to figure out this problem without some heavy help from someone older. I couldn’t have figured it out in 3rd grade without someone giving me the answer or Lisa telling me, herself. Back then, I was still working on my multiplication facts up to 12, not figuring out logic problems that would have appeared in the NY Times at the time.

Daughter, of course, just sails through this stuff while I slog doggedly through it like I’m wading through treacle with Crocs on. I don’t think I’m revealing any secrets when I say that the little brat snickers up her sleeve every time we compare test scores. She’s probably going to be done with what she needs to review way before our month-long membership is up, but I’m not canceling it until I battle my way to the upper grades. Well, at least to fourth grade. No! Make that 8th grade and I won’t stop until I get passing scores on every damned one of the practice areas.

Back in 8th grade, I failed algebra, but a kind teacher gave me a C-, because I had A’s in all my other subjects and he didn’t want to ruin my report card. I floundered through math until I quit school to get married halfway through my junior year. I never “got” algebra and only got a weak grasp on geometry until about five years later when I trained to be a welder and found that my lack of math smarts was holding me back. I could weld with the best of them, but when it came to the math part of the training, I was lost. So, like the stubborn idjit that I am, I went out and got a math tutorial on algebra and geometry and completed the course, along with two hefty workbooks, inside of 6 weeks. At that point, I “got” algebra and geometry with a vengeance. I also got my GED and aced the math portion, much to my surprise.

Since then, I’ve completed about 3 years of college classes, here and there and in no coherent fashion. I just took what I wanted for my own purposes. Creative writing, philosophy, science and women’ s studies. I never took math again, which is probably why I’m shaky on vertices and other geometric wossnames. Starting tonight, however, while Daughter thinks that I’m playing games on Pogo, I’m going to do what I did lo those many years ago. I’m going to go online and learn what the heck a vertice is when it’s at home, scope out geometry and logic until I’m blue in the face and burn through 8 grades of math at IXL. The fact that IXL costs 19 dollars and change a month is all the incentive I need. I may be a little slow at some math, but not when it comes to dollars and cents.

About Lill Hawkins

My two home schoolers have left the nest to pursue college, but that doesn't mean that Geekdaddy and I have sunk into boredom. He's still talking to his tomato plants and I'm still talking to people who wear wooden cups around their necks on a string and overhearing conversations that would make a sailor blush at restaurants. Thank goodness or what would I write about with the kids gone?
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