07 April 2010

Doing The Math, with Robert Robertson

You know, I have a calculator, right in the "Start" menu of my computer desktop. So I'm the go-to person for calcualation... of monthly benefit amounts and subsidized housing percentages and how-much-do-I-owe-that-guys. I've got that stuff down. So when Mr. (he has this beautiful Latin American name, but he refers to himself as) Robert Robertson came in with a math problem, I whipped out my Windows Caluclator. Bring it on, Mr. Robertson.

He gave me something really complex; something that didn't seem to have anything to do with rent or debt or bottle deposits... and when I finally finished it, he just looked up, looked down, looked up again, and said: "Good Job." Not, "That's what I thought," or "Oh, that's not good," or "I can handle that," but "Good Job." He was quizzing me. "No calculator next time."

It took me until my fourth math problem (I would get them about twice a week, when I didn't appear to be busy) to realize that Mr. Robertson did all of these problems in his head, and graded me based upon his own mental calculation. Some of them, I would spend a brain-bending 15 minutes on, giving him back a scrap of paper full of scribbles with an answer circled. He would look at my work for a while, and then give me his oral review.
"Good Job."
"Oooooh veeery good job."
"No! You make way too hard! So easy! Look different!"
The last one was factoring a quadratic function. Where does he get this stuff?

So we're keeping score now, and it's currently
Anna: 7
Mr. Robertson: 3

But he's stepping it up, now. I think he's going to even out the score. Behind that greying matted hatted hair and stretched-out Florida t-shirt, there is quite a mind. We'll see if this college grad can keep up.

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