Friday, September 14, 2007

Back to School

School has last!
With all the kids back at school, you would think I would get a little more time for essential things like, say, blogging. Yeah right. Ro and Vio started on Tuesday and Carmen today, but this week has been a whirlwind of endless activity for me. Most of this activity involved spending flipping great wodges of cash on school supplies, laminating all the girls' books, and attending back-to-school meetings. I have developed a strong dislike of sticky plastic, and if I never have to struggle with covering another book with the stuff, it'll be too soon. Just when it seems that the plastic is going on smoothly, ever so smoothly, there it is...the ever present wrinkle. I then proceed to peel back the plastic and begin to smooth it down once more...Oh damn, another wrinkle, and so on and so forth. Every year it's the same story: the kids come home with their backpacks full of books, we spend a small fortune on them, laminate them, and we never seem to be able to reuse them from one kid to another. Those tricky book editors change the editions every two years, so parents are forced to buy new books for each child. I hear parents' associations are recommending having a kid every year in order to save money on books (but what you save on books, you end up spending on diapers, so I'd say it's a lose-lose situation, no matter what you do). When I was a kid we used to be assigned our books at school and have to return at the end of the year - woe to kid who lost his book, or didn't return it in decent shape. Some of those books were over 10 years old, and you'd find things like "Rob loves Lisa 1972" or even "I was at Woodstock, where were you?" (okay, I'm exaggerating just a tad). Of course, nowadays all the math, language, history, and science changes so fast that you can't reuse books for more than two years, you have to trade in New Math for Newer Math, and next we'll have Even Newer Math (or Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Multiplication, But Your Parents Won't be Able to Explain to You Because They Studied Old Math). Here's an example of how education has changed over time:
A Math Problem:
Up to the 1960’s
A peasant sells a bag of potatoes for $10.
His costs amount to 4/5 of his selling price.
What is his profit?

In the early 1970’s
A farmer sells a bag of potatoes for $10.
His costs amount to 4/5 of his selling price, i.e., $8.
What is his profit?

1970’s (new math)
A farmer exchanges a set P of potatoes with a set M of money.
The cardinality of the set M is equal to $10 and each element of M is worth $1.
Draw 10 big dots representing the elements of M.
The set of production cost is comprised of 2 big dots less then the set M.
Represent C as a subset of M and give the answer to the question:
What is the cardinality of the set of profits?

A farmer sells a bag of potatoes for $10.
His production costs are $8 and his profit is $2.
Underline, the word “potatoes” and discuss with your classmates.

today's math
A farmer sells his potatoes for $10. His costs are $8 and his profit is $2. Look up "potatoes" on Google, and discuss with your classmates on Messenger.
And for those of you who like a little visual aid when learning math:

With all the talk about protecting the environment, why doesn't the government do something about all those books that are just being thrown away because they are outdated? And of course they need to be laminated since they aren't hardcover, so parents break out roll after roll of plastic film to protect the books that will be thrown away at the end of the year. It's kind of ironic really, cover the books so they'll last, and then throw them away at the end of the school year, because you surely won't be using them again. And the government wonders why the birth rate here in Spain is so low. Haven't they realized that lots of people are probably scared sterile by the cost of school books (of course the politicians have salaries that make them immune to fear-of-what-it-costs-to-raise-a-child-sterility, so they don't worry about such a trivial matter).

One good thing about this school year is that we now have uniforms in the primary grades. It's optional, but not for my kids...they're wearing it whether they like it or not. The uniform means no more fighting about what the kids wear to school and less washing and ironing (which ultimately translates into more blogging time -gotta save time any way I can). Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to secondary school, so we still have the weary task of deciding what Carmen wears each day...but she starts an hour earlier, so I'll let her dad deal with that. I get to deal with dragging the other two out of bed, actually, I have trouble dragging myself out of bed after getting up late all summer. And now I have to drag myself back to laminating Carmen's stack of books, which we will probably not be able to pass on to RocĂ­o. What I can pass on to you is Central Snark, where you'll find humor that's never outdated.


  1. Gorgeous girls--amazing how sharp they look in those unis!

    The whole textbook thing is such a racket. Even at the college level, it is a pain...I, the teacher, am often not informed by publishers that they're putting out a new book, and I find out from my students who tell me, "We have a different book from you."

    I'd like to laminate Mr. Publisher Guy.

  2. Halo, Therese!
    Muy buena postagene, gracias por hacerla.
    Tien un buen fin de semana

  3. Hi Theresa, the girls look very nice in the uniforms. I only don't like the kneesocks , it looks so dark together. May they also have red socks?

  4. The textbook thing is such a money-making scam, isn't it? I liked your take on math education through the ages.

    Change your background - I could barely read the text.

  5. Personally, I like the new wave math better than the new math. And don't get me started on math rock. I'll be here for hours!


  6. not having to stick those crappy plastic covers on my kids' school books is just ONE reason i'm glad they're out of grade school. not having to help with their math homework is, but, another.

    seriously, i was a very good math student once upon a time. now the "advanced" stuff i learned my sophomore year is what children are being taught in the 3rd grade. yowie.

    your girls look completely adorable in their uniforms-- which, i have to say, DOES make the whole "get ready for school" a heck of a lot easier-- for them and for you! ;)

  7. schoolbooks, I just spent a minor fortune on mine. almost 90 % of them are 2007 editions so I couldn't buy any second hand. I mean seriously, it is not like all of a sudden there is gonna be anotehr bone in teh human body that justifies a new edition of anatomy from last years...nor is the chemical construct of an alkane gonna change any time soon.

    Considering that everybody is screaming we have to safe the teeth, this seems ridiculous. Unless, ther eis a chapter of how to properly plant a tree in Iceland in one of my books...lemme check...nope!

    Hope you find teh time you need for blogging, learn to drag yoruself early out of bed again and a pedicure every now and again is always well deserved.

    I remember schoolbooks in elementary class, you picked them up from teh teacher at teh beginnign of each year and tehn turned them in...once I got one physics book, that was previously owned by Klaus,, who was a really good drawing person...doodling all over. It made me turn teh page!

  8. This preoccupation with education confuses me. In my day we learned only how to ride and how to wield a broad sword. Surely that is still adequate preparation for most of life's challenges?

  9. Those girls look so smart, and very cute, in those uniforms!
    The math thing was hilarious. (smile)

  10. Jocelyn: Okay, let's gang up on Mr. Publisher Guy, I'm sure that between the two of us we can take him.

    David Santos: Bem-vindo! I'm sorry, but I don't know any more Portuguese. Glad you liked the post and I hope you also had a good weekend.

    Mem: They look pretty nice, don't they? I don't like the socks much either, but it's a uniform so we can't really choose the color of the socks. Oh well, at least no more fighting about what to wear and a whole lot less washing.

    Suburban: The book thing drives me crazy, there has to be a better way to do this, but unless the government takes a stance I'm afraid we'll be shelling out hundreds of euros every year. I think I fixed the background thing. Which browser do you use? Because I've been having trouble with my template in version 6 and earlier of Explorer.

    Minijon: New wave math? I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that kind...but it sounds infinitely more fun than regular math.

    Neva: I still have years of plastic cover to stick and I cringe at the thought of it. Whoever invented it should have his legs waxed with it. I also have to relearn math, since my kids do it differently than when I was a's like being in grade school all over again....except I don't get teased by the boys and there's no cooties.

    Minka: It is crazy, isn't it. But then again maybe they have discovered a new bone...the one that hurts when paying for all those books. When I was in college I managed to get a good portion of my books secondhand, but the trend must be changing...what will become of the poor earth with all this throw away culture?

    Grundir: I am positive that with your imposing presence that is more than enough preparation, however for most of us mortals, a sword and a horse don't cut it.

    Pavel: Not only do they look cute, they whine less (at least about what they are going to wear).

  11. That math thing was a riot. But I was never very good at math; new or old. What I'm curous about is the conversions between the old math currency of Spanish pesetas and the new math currency of Euros. See...math is still so confusing.

  12. Oh, the maths problem is just hilarious ! Note that I can't solve any of them though :D

    My mum (yeah, sorry, I'M 24 and don't have kids yet !) always complains about the different teaching methods, especially that I'm the eldest and my brother is almost ten years younger. She knows all the reforms really well !

    And the books... oh so true ! We didn't have to buy them at the time and god they were old ! They had to change them a few years ago I've heard in France, mostly because of the Euro change.

  13. I was just talking to my husband about this... whenever my dad tried to help me with my algebra homework, he was of solving a problem was very different than what they were teaching so his help was no help at all since I couldn't prove how I got to the answer LOL!

    Great post!

  14. Love this line, "scared sterile by the cost of schoolbooks". Do the fertility clinics know of this possibility? Thankfully, we are still on the loaner system here in the states (well at least in NYC). Pfew - the school supplies alone are expensive enough.

    The girls make perfect school uniform models - very smart and adorable. Thankfully, Tali wears a uniform to her school. It makes a world of difference.

    Now about that coffee...

  15. Oh the joys of going down to the bookstore and trying to get books. Okay, my bookstore NEVER had all of the books I needed before school. And then the money...ugh...hundreds of dollars for public school. Yes, that is one thing I don't miss in Spain. My kids are in uniforms and get the "johnny loves lsd and susie" books to use. I loved your math thingy by the way -- and I like potatoes.