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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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I. Hate. Homework. 

(sample page in Henry's Math Investigations workbook, not even a little bit edited by me! I SWEAR)

1. 48 divided by 8 = ? Show your work.

2. Let's say you have 48 cookies and you must divide them equally among eight people. How many would you give them? Show your work some more.

3. Now what if you had 48 gum balls, smart brains? And 8 ponies? How many gum balls would each pony get? Show your work. But a different way this time.

4. Okay NOW we're going to imagine you have 48 headaches and only 8 skulls! DIFFERENT THINGS! How many headaches does each skull get? SYW. (That's short for Show Your Work. Really mix it up this time, would you? We get bored.)

5. This one's new, promise. 48 candy corns, 8 socks. Put an equal number of candy corns in each sock. See? Candy corn + socks = fun! (You better show your work AGAIN but this time in an equally FUN way.)

6. How were the above questions different? Explain.

7. Explain more. Draw stuff for us about how you're explaining. Really show us your work.

8. Are you yelling at your mom about how you don't want to do your homework? How much?

9. Hey, what are you thinking right now?

10. We're desperately unhappy people. This is probably because there are 48 of us, and only 8 desks. How many people should sit at each desk? Show your work.

11. Seriously, show us. We should mention that Tad is hogging one desk all to himself, and Linda and Jason are making out at another one, and one desk is infested with spiders; two others are in an alternate dimension and if you try to use them you're torn in half; three desks are in this one corner of the office where the lights stopped working and we can hear someone or something in there growling and snapping. Wait, that's all the desks. But where .... where are we?

12. Show our work. Oh, God, show our work! 

Reader Comments (42)

I thought of you when I heard this story the other night:

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSpring

This!!! This is one of the many reasons I hated school so very much. I've never been a math-lover, but (at least up until letters and symbols got involved later on) I was always in the "advanced" math groups/classes and didn't find it particuarly difficult...except when showing your work was involved. How do you show work for things that you can do in your head and therefore just know? That's like explaining why you know how to spell a certain word, or coming up with dumb "clever" little "tricks" to remember facts when they are JUST THINGS YOU REMEMBER. My inner child is angry all over again now. (Note: I solved these problems by simply not doing homework for the majority of my grade school and junior high years -- I was bright enough that my test scores and the fact that teachers loved my little nerd self still meant I ended up in all the advanced classes with As on my report cards, even though I also got yelled at a lot for not doing homework. The phrase "not working up to your potential" was also regularly invoked. Then, later, when homework actually counted more so things wouldn't just magically balance out like that...I just dropped out of school at 16, and never went back for any kind of formal education. I am not endorsing this method for anyone else, just saying that it worked out okay for me, mostly.)

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMiss B

Um. This is freaking awesome.

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKeryn

When our 7YO has to show his work, he draws fingers.

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

Hah! Very accurate. I think the president of France had the right idea when he banned homework altogether.

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

I always hated those "show your work" imperatives. I couldn't show what didn't exist, and if I didn't have to work to come up with the answer, what was I supposed to do, draw a picture of my brain? Now that I think of it, (many years too late), drawing a picture of my brain every time show your work was invoked would have been a great idea.

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

We knew we were in trouble when my first grader's teacher sent home a letter at the beginning of the year, reminding us that homework should not be "frustrational." And yet the homework has been so, so FRUSTRATIONAL. The show-your-work imperative has been annoying because it diverts attention from the basic question of adding and subtracting units to how to draw the candy/pigs/trees or whatever is meant to be represented. My child loves to draw, but his artistry is misplaced in this instance. And his teacher barely glances at the homework anyway. I like Katherine's (fingers) and Connie's (brain) ideas. Except the homework always instructs on what is to be drawn (yams/aardvarks/chairs). But his teacher doesn't care anyway. Frustrational!

November 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterRCAS

First grade here, too. We have reading homework (only) and also spelling, although we don't actually practice the spelling words much. Too bad, so sad.

One week we had a whole bunch of the book left to read on the night before "check in day", and I suggested we keep it for another week. This was met with, "But if I do that, I won't get to do choice time." But you are reading chapter books, sometimes it takes more than a week to get through one! So up we stayed, past bedtime, to finish the book. My consolation: she was tired for school. BWA HA HA HA. (Not really.)

I shall now incorporate "frustrational" into my vocabulary.

In college, we ask them to show their work so that we can give them partial credit for writing something down. I don't know how to show 48/8=6, though.

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavida

In college I got a low score on a test when I "showed my work" by actually drawing out and leaving on the paper all the little doodles and sketches and visual images that got me to the right answer. We then spent an entire class discussing the merits of critical thinking versus rote memorization and spitting out of facts and formula (needless to say, she didn't agree with my point of view).

All of her tests after that included the phrase "show your formulas". :(

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMiranda

oh Alice. I'm sorry. Tell Henry I'm sorry too.

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Okay - teacher speaking here! When we ask kids to show their work, all we really want to know is how they're thinking. I don't know about NY, but where I live, our math curriculum is all about different ways to get to the same place. As far as I'm concerned, if a kid can verbally TELL me how they got their answer, or draw a picture to show it, I'm fine. Even if they say, "I just did it in my head", that tells me something too: the kid's got a math brain and is probably better at calculating than I am and will probably end up earning WAY more money than me as well.

That being said, asking kids to basically do the same problem eleventy-million times is dumb. If they can do it once, good job, now let's move on. (But then I'm not a big believer in homework either - but don't tell my principal!)

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpinklea

My daughter once drew a picture of a brain on her homework when asked to draw a picture of how she figured out the answer to a math problem. Fortunately, her teacher thought it was funny.

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

4th grade math?? i'm in the same hell my favorite is... "6x8= ? How do you know?" Uh, because you tell my child to practice multiplication tables every night, what do you mean how does he know? How are you supposed to answer that???

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteramanda

I think your next watercolor should be an illustration of #10! This post was hilarious, this is why I want to home-school!

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLilana

Pinklea: thank you! My problem is not with the teacher but these WORKBOOKS, which I think we all know have been written by 48 frustrated educational-publishing writers, all toiling in a semi-dark room that contains monsters.

November 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterAlice

I would ask a family member to take a picture of me in the living room doing handstands and cartwheels while my mom lays on the couch drinking an ice and Coke yelling out multiplication problems and me, answering her. Then I'd print out that picture, and staple it to the back of the sheet of homework. Where it says "Show your work," I would write "Please see attached, repeatedly." Because that is how I learned multiplication - by being drilled over and over and over.

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGreen

That is the funniest thing I have read in months. I love it. Bookmarking it to show my daughter ( grade six) who hates showing her work!!!

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaula schuck


November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

I'm sorry, Beth, but I don't see *your work* in this answer.

November 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterAlice

I had a math teacher that would subtract points if you didn't show work, even if the answers were right. That right there is why i stopped copying my neighbors answers. Just kidding. I never did that, seriously, but since I never knew how to do the math to begin with It was dissapointing to not even be able to take a stab at getting it right.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKari

Apparently "showing your work" is a big thing everywhere. My son is in 3rd grade and the teachers made a big deal about this at the orientation earlier in the year.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I was JUST complaining on facebook last night about how I hate homework.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJC

There are many many good reasons why kids should practice showing their work and explaining their thinking. I mean, you could probably teach a chicken to peck out 6 and 8 when it saw the number 48. That would be pretty cool, but it wouldn't mean the chicken could do math. In fact, they actually make calculating devices now that can do most multiplication for you. There are even handheld ones! So useful! So anybody who can just parrot the answer when shown a numerical question has pretty much been made obsolete by technology.

But, given that solving problems in multiple ways and communicating reasoning is the most useful skill that kids are learning in 4th grade math, why is there still this near-universal feeling among parents that showing work is useless/stupid/painful/worthless/annoying/pointless? I think there is a real failure among educational professionals to: a)communicate the value of these skills to parents + students and b) ask meaningful questions so that showing work is a necessary and natural part of the exercise, not just something to be tacked on at the end.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlb

I hated math when I was a kid, and part of it was that my dad was incredibly smart and loved math, but he was really bad at helping with it because he would give me 10 different ways to do things (sometimes at a college level), and I'd cry and cry about how I had show my work THEIR way - and at the time it was new math, which was frustrational (I love that word) for both of us. He did teach me how to draw things out though, and that has always been helpful. When my daughter was in school she also had trouble with math, partly because she could sometimes come up with the answers to quite complicated problems in her head, but would have no idea how she figured it out, which of course made showing her work really difficult. Finally in high school we had her tested, found out she has a slight learning disability with math, got her an IEP and into a special class where she did very well. But it was a very long and involved process to make that happen. School has been one of the most frustrating things I've ever had to deal with. Also Microsoft Word, but that's a completely different rant.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth B


November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralice

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