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Anne Glamore: Master Mathematician

This week we added the Maroon 5 and Counting Crows concert to our usual busy schedule of work, school and musical and athletic activities.  The concert didn’t start until 8 p.m., when the boys are usually winding down, so Tuesday afternoon I got them all jacked up on Coke and Mountain Dew so they’d be wide awake for the festivities.

Drew kept his eyes glued on the bass player.  Porter dragged Bill all over the amphitheater in order to view the show from every possible angle.  Maroon 5 flashed green lasers over the audience from time to time, which drove Porter wild with jealousy, as his latest heart’s desire is a laser pointer that he can use to burn holes in things that he refuses to identify with more specificity.

Finn stayed put, trying to achieve that “I know I appear to be with these parental units and little brothers but I don’t actually know them” look by remaining one foot in front of us at all times and refusing to look me or Bill in the eye when answering our questions.

During the break between bands, Drew, Finn and I went to check out the T-shirts (we decided to find them cheaper on eBay) and on the way back the boys waited while I stood in the line and finally used the bathroom.  I saw a girl in Finn’s class and introduced myself before ducking into a stall.  Upon hearing this, Finn came undone, and made it clear that my role was to ignore her, not to approach her, smile at her or engage her in conversation so help me God.

Finn and his friend must have talked about me at school the next day.  He reported that I “said some highly inappropriate things” while waiting in line for the bathroom.  Sure, I was reminiscing about the days before the amphitheater had seats everywhere, and had a large lawn in the back where you could toss a blanket and relax and listen to the music, but I wasn’t talking to a seventh grader about this. I was chatting up the other ladies in line.  About nineteen years ago Bill and I had gone with a group of people to a low key concert of the Jimmy Buffet or James Taylor ilk, and we spent the entire concert macking on a blanket under the stars with a live soundtrack below.  Occasionally we came up for a sip of beer and a bite of fried chicken but mainly it was lips and tongues and Sweet Baby James.

The other ladies in the bathroom line had similar tales to tell, although they may have been smooching to Randy Travis or Metallica, and I think Finn and his friend are just jealous that they are going to have to drape themselves over hard stadium seats to make out (when that time comes) instead of laying back on the grass, swatting mosquitoes, assuming they notice them, which they won’t.

This week has also been dominated by Algebra, which is Finn’s most challenging class this semester.  For a few weeks Bill was in charge of ensuring that Finn was employing appropriate study habits, while I checked up on the duo.  However, when Finn brought home a couple of bad grades and was nonchalant about them, Bill freaked out to the Nth degree and I decided that Bill was too personally invested in Finn’s success.  We switched kids and he’s now in charge of Drew and Porter’s fourth grade curriculum (and my God, Porter, George Washington Carver did a lot of great things with peanuts but he did NOT write To Kill A Mockingbird, that was Harper Lee, who hung out with Truman Capote, who was sort of a peanut, so I can see how you might get confused).

Finn has a big test today, and I am such a stellar mom that if he asks (and only if) I will write him out a practice test to help him get ready.  He has some big things riding on his grade this semester (like an apparatus that rings and dials numbers).

He had a packed afternoon yesterday.  He got home from cross country around 4:30 and I dropped him at the high school so he could play drums at the football game at 5:00, and he returned around 8:30.  By then I had thirty math questions written out, along with my answer key.  All my algebra from the 1980’s has come flooding back, so if you find yourself butting heads with an equation that contains a variable and it needs solving, or maybe graphing on a number line, or you need to apply the distributive property, reduce the numbers down to the least common denominator and solve for X, head back over here because I can help you.  My talent is wasted here, though, because algebra never comes up in the law, or at the grocery store, or while doing laundry.  I haven’t told Finn that.


Hot tip for the day:  Any number to the 0 power is 1.  I have no idea why.


Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom:It’s Good News, So Why Am I Crying?


  • CourtneyRyan369

    Love that you take your kids to live music!

    And I don’t get why any number to the 0 power is 1 either. Oddly, no one has been able to explain it to me. If anyone can that’d be super!

    CourtneyRyan369’s last blog post..About me…

  • andrea

    aha, I can answer this one.

    So, any number over itself is equal to one.

    4/4 = 1

    Okay, so then, this continues to apply when you have a base raised to an exponent, over that same base raised to the same exponent. That is,

    (3^2)/(3^2) = 1

    Got it?

    OK. Now, when you have the same base in both the numerator and denominator, either raised to the same exponent or different exponents, for example:

    (3^2) / (3^4)



    Then, you can combine the 2 top-and-bottom bases into a single base, by subtracting this exponents.

    That is,

    (3^2) / (3^4) = 3^ (2-4) = 3^(-2)

    That is, when you bring an exponent across a fraction line, you subtract that exponent from the exponent that stayed where it was.

    Now, back to the case when the exponents are the same.

    We already established that:

    3^2 / 3^2 = 1, because it is the same thing, top and bottom.

    But if we were to do the cross-the-fraction-line, subtract-the-exponent shenanigans, we’d get

    3^2/3^2 = 3^(2-2) = 3^0 because 2-2 = 0

    So, if 3^2/3^2 = 3^0, and

    3^2/3^2 = 1, then 3^0 must also equal one (by the transitive property. Take that, LSAT logic!)

  • K

    My son was at that concert – he said it was really good. He got to meet the lead singer for Counting Crows, who (whom?) he said got away from his bodyguard and meandered through the crowd! I, too, remember the good old days where the third section was a grassy hillside. It would never work these days of really wild and loose promiscurity. We had the good sense to get under cover in the back seat of a car, lol! I may be calling you about the Algebra – I have to take a COMPASS test later on and I’m freaked out about remembering that. My hubs bought me some math tutor videos – we’ll see if that works!

  • Joy East of theKingdom

    I saw the Bangles at the ampitheatre back in the 80’s. It was raining and they played as long as they safely could. We were all in the “cheap seats” aka the lawn and when it was over we looked like we’d all been mud wrestling.

    As far as solving for X, …my brother got the math gene and I got the English gene. I barely made it out of Algebra and he flunked English (while mysteriously passing Spanish…go figure.)I just tell people I’m allergic to math…LOL!

    Joy East of theKingdom’s last blog post..Have You Forgotten (Repost)

  • Lindsey

    My explanation for why any number to the power of 0 is much simpler. It’s a pattern. For example:

    10^6 = 1,000,000
    10^5 = 100,000
    10^4 = 10,000
    10^3 = 1,000
    10^2 = 100
    10^1 = 10
    10^0 = 1

    In other words, as you make the exponent smaller by 1, you divide the numerical value by 10, at least in this case. Plus, this pattern also continues to negative exponents and will also work with any other base.

    10^-1 = .1
    10^-2 = .01

    I teach 8th grade Math in Delaware and this is exactly how we teach this funky piece of mathematical logic.

    And by the way.. while “old school” algebra may not be used in the real world, anytime you try to solve for something you don’t know, that’s algebra!

  • andrea

    Lindsey, yeah, that’s true, but it’s only obvious for ten; it doesn’t really specify why _everything_ raised to the zero power is 1.

  • Lindsey

    Andrea, it works the same way.. Let me explain. Hehe.

    2^4 = 16
    2^3 = 8
    2^2 = 4
    2^1 = 2
    2^0 = 1
    2^-1 = .5
    2^ -2 = .25

    So in this case, as you lower the power by 1, you divide by 2, which is the base.

    Same thing for any number.
    5^4 = 625
    5^3 = 125
    5^2 = 25
    5^1 = 5
    5^0 = 1
    As you lower the power, you divide by 5.

    It’ll work for any number. You just have to establish the pattern.

  • E Bird

    Good grief- while I teach algebra and geometry- I couldn’t get past the concert restroom conversation. We were at a Wayne Newton concert-free tickets and booze-while in the restroom a nice lady about seventy years old dressed like Madonna in the eighties, complete with lace gloves with no fingers and a little hat with feathers, proceeded to reminisce about attending an Elvis concert explicitly professing her desire to XX**))00 in an extremely loud voice. We left the restroom in tears of hysterics.

  • Cassie

    Forget the math that Finn’s doing, we can’t get past AG 4th grade Algebra at my house. I set on the bed for 4 hours with a circle trying to get 11 equal parts from 4 lines. Never could do it! And Bill and me together were fighting over how to do a simple algebra problem. Apparently there is something on the internet that will figure out equations for you free of charge and correctly, but for the life of us we couldn’t remember how to get the correct answer. Two hours later we had it, then we had to explain it! Oye!

  • Anne Glamore

    I am stunned at the algebraic passion evidenced by these comments, especially when the only passion I wrote about was the horizontal kind.