On the walk to school this morning my 4th grade daughter and I talked about the homework she finished yesterday. Our conversation:
Me: I read your book report and really liked how you described the problem/struggle of the main character. What did you think of it?
Her: I like writing because I get to imagine the rest of the story and write whatever I want. There’s no exact correct answer in language arts.
Me: And what do you think of the math you’re learning this year? I noticed you’re learning things now in 4th grade that I didn’t learn until high school.
Her: I like math, but it’s boring.
Me: What’s boring?
Her: In math there’s always only one exactly correct answer and everyone has to get the same answer. In language arts there are many different answers and they can all be correct or right and it doesn’t have to be exact. I like that choice and that everyone can be different.
Me: What do you not like about everyone getting the same answer?
Her: It is boring if everyone is the same.
Me: I’d never thought of it that way before. I love math and the exactness of it and I love you and your imagination and ideas, kid.
Her: Why do you love the exactness?
Me: For me, math always felt comfortable and safe because there’s always a right answer. It’s like some religions teach there’s only one right way or only one truth. It took me years, until I was a young adult, to feel comfortable with everything the world offers: difference and diversity and choice. Now I’m more comfortable seeing and embracing difference and diversity, instead of fearing what’s different.
Her: That’s what my school teaches – everyone is different and we’re better together because we’re different.
[end of walk and talk, chaos of meeting her friends and the school day starting]