Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?!

I used to think the idea of a show comparing your wits to that of a 5th grader was ridiculous. Now, I know better. Because now, now I have a 5th grader. And I feel infinitely stupid each and every time she brings homework home.

Let me start by saying, we are only in the second week of school, people! This should not be this hard yet! But it is. It started with some grammar homework. I have a journalism degree. I write for a living. One would think this would be a breeze. Nope. Not at all. She had interrogative statements and exclamatory and some other stuff I can’t even remember. She had to figure out which sentence was what. I found myself saying things like, “Well, this is your homework. What do you think the answer is?” Surely, she’s going to catch on sooner than later that I don’t know the answers to the questions she is asking.

Then, as if the grammar homework wasn’t embarrassingly defeating enough… she came home with Social Studies homework. Did I mention I have a minor in history? Please do not tell my college professors about the following. She came home with a sheet about Mesopotamia and the Sumerians, among others. She had to determine who did what in history. Then, she had an assignment to unscramble the letters to come up with inventions associated with the groups. We struggled through a majority of them. Until we came across this little gem. Look at question 11. 1150722_10151840176702722_1901209540_o

Say what?! I knew the second word was “writing.” I was stumped. She was stumped. I asked my mom. She was stumped too. I Googled it. You know what I found? A ton of other people asking the same darn thing! And no one had any answers. So, my next logical step was to take it to Facebook. Apparently, my friends are much smarter than me. Half of them knew the answer right away. The other half wanted to know when my daughter had started college….

So, people – what do you think the answer is?


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie B.
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 11:01:33

    cuneiform I believe is the word.


  2. NvRMnD (@NvRMnD907)
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 12:50:50

    I believe Stephanie is correct. I also believe that schools, especially public schools, think that by making the programs so difficult as to make the children bring the work home and force them to involve their parents is much more time effective than teaching them what needs to be taught. As Americans, we have the idea that the reason our children are “behind” in many areas that other nation’s children excel in is due to the school system alone. Many of us work hard all day and do everything we can to support our family that teaching our children at the end of the day would be just too much. Granted, I do think the “one size fits all” method in our schools is a main cause of our education systems failures but there happens to be many factors to consider when pinpointing the problem.
    First off, the curriculums are engineered for the teachers not for the children. To understand this a bit of history needs to be reviewed. It used to be that one town shared a classroom or “schoolhouse” for all the children in a community. Young children and older children shared the same class, all day long, all year long (getting a small time off at the end of summer to help harvest crops). Before that, most children would simply follow their parents around and watch or even assist them in their daily tasks therefore learning the same specialization in a certain trade. This formed some of the last names we still use today (Smith, Fisher, Mason). Most had to learn many trades to survive. Most had to communicate clearly but did not need to learn to write. This trend has had its peaks and valleys throughout history and as community grows, so does it’s need for centralized education. Back to the schoolhouse, everything was now based on the teacher-student interaction and no longer the parent-child interaction. The educator would act as the teacher, principal, and most times the religious authority. Punishments were given out at the teacher’s discretion and negative reinforcement was a major tool in motivating children to “try harder” and “focus on learning”. The same teachers for every subject for every year until you were no longer in school. The teacher knew the child as well, if not more, than the parent. As our society changed and our class sizes grew so did our approach to education. We divided our school system so that there were now primary (elementary) schools for younger children and secondary (Junior/high schools) for teenage students. This caused the first major division in the teaching specialties. Teachers of primary and teachers of secondary now had separate methods and sometimes different goals for students. Later, as class sizes grew, more teachers were needed. The larger the class size the more divided the “grades” became. Secondary schools eventually evolved into what we are familiar with today. We end up with the one teacher for one class for one subject for one semester/quarter for each student. Not only are teachers not required or expected to know multiple areas of study, let alone multiple divisions within that study, they are encouraged to follow a specific curriculum in most cases. For example, Mr. Brown teaches Algebra I and Algebra II each semester to 5 one hour classes a day to an average of 26 students per class. This becomes a problem when attempting to give individual attention to a student who may not be at the same level as the other students (lower and higher). One child may possess an aptitude for mathematics while another needs more help, yet neither of them receives the correct amount of attention (i.e., one student challenged and the other tutored). Confined within the “standards” of teaching both students fail to reach full potential. Meanwhile the teacher, who has 130 papers to grade every time homework is given, is juggling the pressure from parents and administrators to pump out children who have the best scores on national tests. The infamous “red pen” becomes the form in which judgment is given in the form of a letter grade as the teacher scans the page for mistakes without having the time to fully identify how the student can better learn the material. In fact, every F that is given is now seen as a reflection on the educator and not the student just as a parent is blamed for a child grown into poverty ending up in prison. While we, Americans, judge our children to those of other nations we often forget that we have embraced the freedom to fail as well as succeed. Those who work harder than others will be rewarded and those who don’t will be allowed to try again or give up. Not so true in other cultures. If you “try” and fail then you are nothing and the future holds untold misery and shame. Repeat one thousand times, “Two times two is four.” If at the end of the day you cannot recall that information you will suffer consequences. There are those who kill themselves over bad grades or failed business meetings. We are given, “..unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The pursuit part is one that is sometimes lost. A pursuit is to strive for something and to strive is to make a great and tenacious effort or to “fight” for something.
    I apologize for my digression. I believe the reason that adults are not as “smart” as a 5th grader is due in part to the way in which we teach our kids. When I needed to know the capital of Australia to pass a test, I learned it. When nobody ever asked me to recall it ever again, I lost it. I don’t know the answer to the problem. I have a son who is nearly two years of age and when I look into his eyes I can tell he wants to know everything about this world I brought him into. At the same time I can honestly say that I know very little because I am busy and only really know the things I have to know at this moment in order to keep going (and a few other things that interest me). I do what I can to teach and learn with him but that time seems to shorten every time I wish to make our families’ future brighter. The only things I can impart on every kid going into the school system are:
    1) Ask questions. The only bad question is the one that is never asked.
    2) Do your best. It may not be good enough for some people but that’s their problem.
    3) Don’t worry about failure. Failure is the best way to learn the wrong way to do the right thing.
    4) NEVER think you are the smartest or dumbest person in the room. All people experience this world differently and may know something you don’t.
    5) Don’t cheat. If you cheat the only thing you get better at is cheating.
    6) Never give up! If you give up before you even try you learn nothing. If you try and fail you still learn a lesson. Every failure will make the time you succeed even sweeter.
    7) Don’t Panic! Panic and frustration only cloud your sight of the goal.
    8) Ask for help when you need it. A different view of things may help you figure things out.
    9) Help others. If someone needs help understanding something, try to explain how you understand it. Don’t just give them the answer because then they still won’t understand.
    10) Keep an open mind but don’t be gullible. This is the most difficult thing to learn. What is fact now could change in an instant. What you think you know could be the truth, as best you know it, and still be wrong. When something doesn’t make sense you may need to do your own research. There is also no way to know everything.

    Sorry if I sidetracked your blog. Just sparked something I have been thinking about.


    • Mom Land
      Sep 15, 2013 @ 10:37:20

      Wow. Thank you for such a well-thought out response! You are correct, there is not enough time given to each child. They all learn differently. We should treat tgem as such. I also enjoyed your top 10 list. I plan on sharing it with my kids. Thanks for reading and commenting!


  3. NvRMnD (@NvRMnD907)
    Sep 27, 2013 @ 10:11:25

    No problem. I take education very seriously and wanted to be a teacher for some time but realized the issues that came with that system and decided against it. I was an honor student in elementary school but ended up dropping out in my second year in high school. I attended an alternative high school where there was one math teacher, one science teacher, one English teacher, etc. The class sizes were 8-10 students per and classes were staggered (2 hour classes and different classes each day, such as Monday-Math/Sciences/Computer & Tuesday-English/ Art/Social Studies). You took an aptitude test to find out where you were at in each area and based on that would discuss with your advisor what curriculum would be the best course of action. Each class contained people from any level of learning (For example; one person learning calculus, one algebra, one geometry) and a single teacher to assist them. The teacher had to be well versed in all possible areas within that subject and would work individually with each student as needed. All work was individually evaluated and given credit in hours worked in that subject with a certain amount of hours to complete. No lectures, unless people wanted one, and work was completed at whatever pace the student wished but had minimum requirements to stay enrolled. I completed three years of schooling in one and a half while working a part time job. It was an amazing and liberating experience and gave me a renewed passion towards learning. Unfortunately, since it was an “alternative” school the highest grade possible, according to the school district, was a C. Ridiculous! The SAT scores that came out of this school where comparable if not better than traditional public education. I don’t believe even private schools teach in such an advanced way. I also don’t believe that this way of addressing the education issues would be a more costly way of teaching in public schools. I suppose the only real problem is that the government wouldn’t be able to track kids based on grades but who cares? Kids don’t need that kind of pressure. Make learning something to be desired and you will have people banging on the door to learn. Sorry again for the rant. =)


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