Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Make that pie, please, not pi March 14, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:06 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
A sign marks the pie booth at the North Morristown, Minnesota, Fourth of July celebration. This is my kind of “pi.” (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

ON THIS, PI DAY and the International Day of Mathematics, I openly admit that I dislike math. I’ve never been good with numbers, never got the early intervention in grade school to help me with the dreaded fractions and other math challenges. And let’s not even discuss how much I disliked word problems. Reflecting as an adult, those problems seem particularly useful in everyday mathematics application. But back in the day, I could not wrap my brain around solving them. And back in the day, my school did not offer extra help to students struggling in any subject.

Moving into junior high school, my dislike of math only intensified. One particular math teacher, who shall go unnamed, scared me to death. He would call students to the blackboard to solve math equations. Talk about intimidating, terrifying and humiliating for those of us who were not good in math, but which he expected to be good in math because, hey, he was. I hope teachers no longer do that—call students to the front of the class to solve math problems.

Then came high school and the dreaded, required algebra. That I made it through that class without failing is still almost incomprehensible. Again, my brain could not understand what letters and exponents had to do with numbers. To this day, I don’t get it and I’m all too happy to leave algebra back in the early 1970s.

Thankfully, the next generations have not inherited my math deficiencies. My son holds a math minor to supplement his computer science degree. And my two grandchildren excel in math. The first grader is in an advanced math class. I can ask Isabelle to solve a math equation well beyond what a nearly 7-year-old should know and I can almost see her brain spinning as she pops out the answer, boom, just like that.

A previous wristwatch of mine. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Isaac, who recently turned four, shows the same developing math strengths. When he stayed with us last week, he was writing digital time in squares across sheets of paper. He started with 1:00, finished at 1:59 and then started with 2:00, reaching 2:59. Early on, he was fascinated by my wristwatch, which I often removed from my arm and slipped onto his. He also liked my vintage alarm clock collection and our wall clock. But mostly, Isaac simply loves numbers.

That their dad, Marc, holds a math degree and works as an actuary likely factors into the grandkids’ math interests and skills. I am grateful they won’t struggle with math like their grandma did all through school.

And then there’s my sister-in-law Rosie, a retired math teacher. No questioning that she loves math.

Homemade blueberry pie purchased at the North Morristown Fourth of July celebration. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

But me? Nope. Math-lovers may be celebrating Pi Day today (what does “pi” even mean?), but not me. I’d rather have the pie you can eat, thank you.

TELL ME: Are you good in math? Do you like math? Did you have any experiences like mine in school?

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


28 Responses to “Make that pie, please, not pi”

  1. The stress sweat popped up when I read math word problems – ugh! I work in Finance and that is a little different than math in general and then do a bit of banking in my role and that is different than accounting to a degree. I was not sure I would survive algebra in my four-year degree program and then took Masters level statistics and did not think I would survive that either and luckily I did. I had a ninth grade math teacher that I detested because he did not think girls needed math. In doing so it worked to my advantage because it pushed me into business math, accounting, budgeting. I still do not know why my brain can solve some math and not others. Like rulers and tape measures give me anxiety, however; I can bake without any issues with measurements. I am like you let’s just eat pie, forget slicing it, and just dig in with a fork – ha! Happy Pie/Pi Day – Enjoy 🙂

    • Oh, my, this is all quite a story. That you ended up in finance amazes me. And that ninth grade math teacher who did not support girls in math, there are no words. He ought not to have been in the teaching profession. Sorry to have brought you math word problem anxiety. But Happy Pi/Pie Day, anyway!

    • My mom is a retired educator and she went head to head and toe to toe with that math teacher. At the time it seemed embarrassing to have a parent intervene, but he was giving the girls just passable grades on tests and the girls were truly passing the tests in the A’s, B’s and C’s. The girls in that class were given the option to have him continue to teach math to them in 10th grade or select an alternative. I selected the alternative.

  2. Susan Ready Says:

    Terrible in math but do love PIE check out Ever Ready for some pie selections

  3. Jane Sarles Larson Says:

    I had similar experiences with math humiliation in grade school. Being called to the front of the room to solve math problems on the board and really struggling with it. It’s been well documented since we were in school that there was pervasive educational inequity when it came to teachers supporting boys vs. girls in mathematics. Perhaps, awareness of poor teaching methods have gone by the wayside. Today, my granddaughters are “A” students in math and have been since their early years.

    • Jane, I’m sorry you endured that same at the blackboard shaming. It was pretty awful. But my math teacher did this to both boys and girls. If you weren’t good in math, then you were a target of his wrath. Yes, I believe times have changed. Kudos to our strong in math granddaughters!

  4. beth Says:

    I can so identify with this, math has always been a huge struggle for me. I also struggle with a sense of direction and mechanical steps. A few years back, my older sister and I realized that we share the same challenges. We decided to find an answer and uncovered research that gave us some explanation. There is a condition called dyscalculia, similar to dyslexia with regard to literacy, but instead affecting math/spatial/steps/cardinal direction skills. Each person presents a bit differently so one may have all or few challenges. There is no solution other than to find ways to adapt to the world, but the good news is that these people are generally very strong on the literacy skills. A silver lining. I’m going to venture to say that most teachers these days would not call individual students out to read or solve math problems in front of a class, but sadly, I’m sure some may still do so

  5. Valerie Says:

    I enjoyed math all through school.
    Our grandson, Ezra, is a whiz too. It’s fun to see.

  6. I got by in math, but always loved (and still do) pie (🥧) more than pi (π). 😉

    • I’d encourage you to attend the North Morristown Fourth of July celebration for some delicious homemade pie. N. Morristown is not actually a town, but rather a church, school, farm place and festival grounds in rural western Rice County. This is supposedly the longest running July 4 celebration in our state. It’s grassroots, down-to-earth, starts with a morning parade (which I typically skip). I love the food, especially the homemade pie (buy it early) and pulled pork sandwiches (again, buy early). There’s free musical entertainment, including Monroe Crossing, and much more. I encourage you to type “North Morristown Fourth of July” into my blog search engine to view my many posts on the celebration.

  7. I missed making pie yesterday. Boo! I could use a piece of pie. Math was never my strength. To the point in 3rd grade when I would mysteriously get sick every day after lunch. Guess what subject followed lunch? Yep. When we were learning multiplication tables I convinced my anxious self that I couldn’t do it. It didn’t take long for my teacher and parents to catch on and a little extra attention and I was ok but still never loved math. Even statistics in college that I had to take for my major baffled me till I changed classes and got a decent professor. 😉

  8. Charles Ziegler Says:

    I’m a whiz at history and a fizz at math!

  9. Norma Says:

    Like you, I was always a “dunce” in math. Herb was always good at it, so I guess our Isaac and Isabelle got it from their daddy and great grandpa. I lived across the street from a school when one of my grandsons attended there. Sometimes he would come to my house when his mom was at work, and bring his homework with him. One day, he had some math. It was modern math. Need I say more?. I could tell him the answer, but for him, that was wrong. ” Grandma, how did you get that answer?” “I need to show how I got that answer.”
    Never again did I offer to help him! Education now a days sure makes us look dumb! Kids aren’t taught to read or write like I was in the olden days. None of my great grand children can read my mail unless I print. And I don’t like to print!!

    • Oh, Norma, yes, education has changed and I understand some of your frustrations. Like you, I must PRINT when I send notes to some family members. Long gone, apparently, are the hours and hours of doing penmanship. Ah, modern math, yes, I remember that term. Good for you to try to help your grandson with his modern math. I didn’t know Herb was good in math, too. It’s interesting to learn more about your family.

      • norma Says:

        Herb was in the Air Force for 4 years in the financial department. He loved math. When he was discharged, he applied for jobs in finance. Was told that he didn’t have enough experience. Go figure.

      • Four years seem like enough experience. But who knows what their thinking was back in the day.

  10. John Kellen Says:

    I’m with you- Pie is tastier than Pi

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