Life with a Smile

Published 2:30 pm Friday, July 24, 2020

Summer math lessons


Community columnist

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Just because school is out for the summer, it doesn’t mean we’re loafing off, academically. There is plenty of Summer Math to be had. You just have to look for it. 

For example, take this story problem. If two children and one mom all clamber aboard a single-seater kayak, how far away from the dock will they get before the vessel capsizes? Answer: just far enough to be inconvenient. 

I really should have seen it coming. Kayaks are fairly stable in the water, but there are limits. Especially when a jet boat goes by and kicks up some waves. The two big kids have experimented with solo paddling, but they’re not very confident yet and often prefer to just straddle the nose of the kayak like a figurehead. In this particular case, my youngest was also perched on the back, riding sidesaddle and dangling her toes in the water. 

Until suddenly we were all in the water and the kayak was upside down. Oops. And that, children, is why we always wear life jackets in the lake. 

I couldn’t figure out how to flip the kayak and re-board. My efforts resulted in so much water coming over the side that I was pretty sure it was about to sink. I abandoned a mid-water recovery and managed to tow the kayak to the shore, where there were enough rocks for me to climb up, dump the water, and scramble back in.  We got ourselves balanced again and returned to the dock. 

What’s that? No, children, we’re not going to do it again!

That small setback aside, I am loving every second we can spend at the lake. Early morning expeditions in the kayaks, dinners on the deck of my partner’s rental house, lounging in the hammock and listening to birds. I have started doing my own mental math. How many non essential organs would I have to sell to afford the down payment on a lake house? And just how essential is a single kidney? I mean you’ve got two, right? 

The lake isn’t our only source of mathematical calculations. No, indeed. Here’s another. If one adult female spends 30 seconds frantically picking green beans at warp speed, how many new bug bites will she acquire? Please round your answer to the nearest 100. 

If there are nine popsicles in the freezer and the children are allowed to eat one per day, how many days will they last? Wrong. They will last one day, because the children will feed one to the dog (“he’s a member of the family!”) and give the rest to friends they see riding past the house on their bicycles. 

If three siblings are playing in a swimming pool that is 10 feet in diameter and three feet deep, how many times will the youngest child claim that her brother tried to drown her? 

If your son turns off the air conditioning in the house, how many hours will it take for you to figure out why everyone is sweating so much?

If your children turn the subtitles on for a Hamilton screening, what are the odds that they will notice the f-bomb that flies by in a sea of words? (Answer: mercifully low)

We’re also all counting the minutes we spend reading this summer, and the competition is fierce. The library moved its summer reading program online with a great tracking app that makes it really easy to keep tabs on your literary accomplishments. The prizes are based on “number of reading sessions” and “number of books read” but it also tracks the total minutes that you log. 

As I’m writing this, my eldest child is leading the pack with 1,644 minutes but I’m hot on her trail with 1,393. Two of my kids have struck a bargain where they are pooling their reward “entries” for a STEM-related prize kit, with the understanding that they’ll share it if they win. My youngest, meanwhile, has calculated how much she needs to read each day between now and the end of July in order to qualify for a free book. 

Take that, Pandemic. We’re totally ready for the coming school year.