Sunday, September 14, 2008


Martha visits every Monday, and just stays until noon.

The previous sentence may not mean anything to you, but if you learned how to memorize the planets from closest to the sun out to the furthest (normally, anyway) the way I did, you know what I'm talking about.

Hint: Until recently, the period at the end of the sentence stood for "Pluto". I guess it still could, since it's not an actual word... but then we'd have to find a purpose for that comma (or get rid of it).

And, before you post a comment asking about "and", that's the asteroid belt.

The reason that I'm telling you all this is because I didn't want to use the name of that planet for the title of this post for the very reason of the subject of this post. That makes a sort of sense, but maybe not yet.

I took all of my classes up to the computer lab on Friday to play "Multiflyer", a game that helps with memorization of multiplication facts.

See, somewhere back in the past 30-some-odd years or so, it was decided that it was not necessary to memorize multiplication facts. It's still not the fashion to have students memorize them.

Which would be all well and good if it was not necessary to memorize multiplication facts. However, doing simple fraction operations without knowing your multiplication facts is like reading Shakespeare without a good grasp on the early-modern version of our language.

That is to say: Start, stop to look up something, start again, go back a bit to remember what was going on, pass the initial problem point, stop to look up some other something, start again, go back a bit to remember what was going on...

And so on.

Thankfully, a study (or a study of studies) came out earlier this year that said it actually IS important for kids to memorize these things for basically the reason I just stated (but they didn't use the analogy of reading Shakespeare). See, if you're using that sort of "short-term" memory space to actually work out what 6 times 7 is (or using that space to walk yourself through punching those four calculator buttons, I suppose... or look it up on a table, even), you don't have as much available space for actually processing the new math skill you're supposed to be learning.

Okay, vent over. This was supposed to be a funny post.

So there we are in the computer lab, playing Multiflyer. The "story" of the game is that you are flying a missing from Earth to the moon, to Mars, to an asteroid, to Jupiter... and so on (with a couple of space stations in there), but to make the trip, you have to get the right numbers entered before your energy runs out. For each short jump, you have to enter one or two more numbers than the jump before.

The kids seem to enjoy it, and I raised the stake by offering a reward for the high score each hour (the faster you answer, the better your score). So these kids were really into it, announcing when they were at each new location, so other kids would know how far ahead they were, etc.

So I'd hear, "I'm on Mars!" and "I'm on Jupiter!" and "I'm on the asteroid!" and "I'm on the first space station!"

And of course, they were also saying, "I'm on Uranus!"

Middle-school child I am at heart, I had to suppress and giggle every time. And it always got worse. I know some of them pieced it together pretty quickly, and would make near-innocent remarks about the planet--and I'm sure they thought they were sly, because they got away with it.

Not because I didn't want to tell them to stop, but because I was afraid I'd start laughing if I started talking.

So: Crotchety Old Man?

Or Goofy Old Middle-Schooler?

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