Ten Reasons I Hate Doing Algebra by T.J. Alexian

Topic: Communication

I flip through her book, spread out across one side of her messy red bed. I try hard not to let the desperation show. Don’t let her smell the fear, that would be the worst thing…it’s gotta be in here somewhere in this thick book…gotta be… “Oh, wait! Here it is. It says here in this book…” I scan the page, trying to refresh my memory from my days in high school.

And Miss Thing sits across from me, picking at her underarm. I tactfully try to ignore that. “So, if you want to graph 2x-3y=9, all you need to do is to let x equal 0. What do you get if x equals 0?”

Ashes keeps picking at the scaly bumps formed around her armpit.

Sigh. She makes it so hard, sometimes. “Ashes? What do you do to x to solve for y?”

Ashes stops her picking, looks over my way. “Dad? Do you think I could have herpes of the armpit?”

Okay, okay. Maybe if I just humour the beast, maybe we might actually get some work done. “Gee, I’d hate to think how you’d get herpes of the armpit, Ash.”

Ashes giggles at the thought and goes back to scratching.

“So, Ash? What would you do to solve y if x is 0?”

Scratch scratch scratch.

This might take some redirection. “Well, if x is 0 that means that 2x would be two times zero, right? So what’s two times zero?”


“Good. Right! So that leaves us with 3y equals 9, which means–”

Ashes stops her scratching, abruptly. A look of concern passes over her face. “Dad, can you be allergic to Teen Spirit?”

“Well, I suppose so.” I abandon the book, glance over at her, suspiciously. “It just seems weird that you could all of a sudden become allergic to something you’ve been wearing all day and for the past three months…”

“But you could, right?”

“Sure. And if we can just get through this we could–”

“What could I do to stop it from itching?”

“Well, you could stop scratching.”

As if. “Besides that.”

“You could scrub under your armpits…”

Ah, there you go. Ashes smiles at me, sweetly. “Daddy, can I go scrub under my armpits?”

Groan. Just keep it together, Teddy. Be firm. “Sure you can, right after we just finish this–”

Scratch scratch scratch. “Oh, this armpit is so itchy. Do you mind if I just go wash them and then come right back?”

Bang, bang, bang. This is the sound of me mentally banging my head up against a proverbial wall.

It’s no use. Better to give in, Otherwise, I’d be lying on this damn bed until midnight. “Sure. Go ahead, Ash.”

“Oh, and I’m going to get a drink while I’m at it. You mind?”

Five minutes later, she’s back on the bed. I read through the book and the paper in front of me. Refresher course. “So, 2x-3y=9, X equals zero. Two times zero equals zero so we’re left with 3y=9. So what do you do–”

“Ouch!” She places her hands to her armpits. “My armpits are BURNING! I must have scratched them too much or something.”

“The pain will go away. Come on, focus! What would you do to 3y=9?”

Ashes places a finger to her mouth and looks up at the ceiling. “Divide by three.”

“Good! Divide by three! Which would be…?”

“Ummm, three.”

“Good! Three, let’s write that down, Three. Now, let’s let Y equal zero, So, what would you–”

“Owwwww!” She places both hands under her pits. “My armpits are soooooooo burning!”


“Want to hear my song?” Suddenly she starts singing, belting out in a little girl voice the main theme to Star Wars. ” Herpes…under my armpits…it’s really itchy…oh yes it is…herpes…under my armpits…really really itchy…”

Sigh. I can’t stand it…I just can’t stand it…the things some people will do to get out of graphing the linear equations of two variables…

Then I burst out laughing, suddenly seeing clearly the absurdity of the whole situation. And when you got right down to it, was it my homework, anyway? Time to throw in the white flag. “Sing it again, Ash,” I request, as if she were Sam at the piano.

Hey, my little girl may never be a quantum physicist. But at least she can sing about her herpes-ridden armpits, from a galaxy far, far away.

8 Responses to “Ten Reasons I Hate Doing Algebra by T.J. Alexian”
  1. I’m with you on that. I used to be a teacher and homework is such a bone of contention with everyone. I’m of the opinion that students should study at school and have fun at home. If schools are going to set them any work to do at home it should be a long term project that involves using several academic subjects and the learning should be fun. Homework is a drag. Parents would probably rather sing the song and enjoy being parents rather than trying to be stand in teachers. I’ve had that same scenario with my children except itchy armpits have never come up, so far. Great blog and I’m sure trillions of parents will be right there with you.

  2. TJ Alexian says:

    Richard, thanks! Both my father and sister are in education, and I have often heard the teacher’s side of the homework debate. From the parent’s perspective, it’s dreadful…no one ever warns you in high school that you’ll have a pop quiz in what you’re being taught twenty years after graduation, when your kids study the same material in school. It’s nice to see that some of what I learned somehow managed to stay in my head, but as you said, I would have much rather been in that galaxy far, far away than having to help teach it to my spawn.

  3. I’ve never seen the point of homework, either a child forced to do it, or as a parent forcing my children to do it. As the father of two primary age children I undergo a constant struggle every weekend to get my children to do their homework. Some teachers of my acquaintance feel exactly the same. And, apart from the valuable time taken to do it, it’s dispiriting for children when some teachers can’t even be bothered to mark it.

  4. TJ Alexian says:

    My son is less-than-enamored of the whole homework experience. This past semester (he just entered high school), he received an A in English on his progress report, and without our knowing, decided he didn’t need to do homework for the rest of the semester. He paid the price, with a D on his report card for that term in English. I see it as a necessary evil, and while it does take time away from other pursuits, it’s part of the price of admission. ashes actually has the better attitude about it now, and has learned to juggle far better this year, than she has in years past. She hasn’t asked me to help with homework much at all, although I still do get math requests (occasionally) from time to time.

  5. Anne Katherine says:

    Oh my, this sounds like my math-challenged daughter, except she’d badger me until I agreed that she maybe could die of her underarm rash and she’d beg and beg for a dermatologist appointment! And in the morning spray more Teen Spirit on!! πŸ™‚
    I’m surprised your daughter HAD a book! We always have to hunt to find those things. I’m not sure they’re ever opened, what with Google and all – who needs books? πŸ™‚

  6. TJ Alexian says:

    She only has the book for me! She knows what a by the book kind of guy I am..so much easier than having to look it up online, and then I get to play teacher, too πŸ™‚

    The good thing is, Ashes hasn’t been begging so much lately for help with math. Good thing, too…she’s taking Trig this year. She’d be DOOMED!

  7. Micheline says:

    Yikes, I’m seriously dreading the day when I have to help my kids do their math homework. Never my strong suit. I love that you gave in to her antics and that she chose the Star Wars anthem as her melody.

    • TJ Alexian says:

      Thanks! Did you like math in high school? I was okay, but only to a certain extent…once I hit Pre-Calculus my senior year I was at sea. Of course, at that point I got cocky and signed up for Honors Pre-Calc, not knowing I was way over my head!

      I was impressed that she chose Star Wars, frankly. Honestly, I didn’t think she knew it…

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