I hate math. My brain decided to clear out all basic math facts to make room for things like vocabulary in Mayan languages and layout of major Latin American cities, so I often confuse my students by saying things like, “Make seven groups of four!” when there are 27 students in the class. I also have issues with counting the number of photocopies I need for worksheets, and grading. The grading is a curse, because Colombia grades on a scale of 1-5, which calls for more division than I’m comfortable with.

In spite of my aversion to numbers, here’s a math problem.

Start with five grades, an average of 25 students each (7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th.)

On my schedule, I will see each grade for 90 minutes, three days a week. More often than not the 90 minutes are split up by 45 minutes of lunch or recess.

  • Subtract five minutes per class because there’s no passing time built into the daily schedule
  • Subtract another three because the bell rarely rings on time
  • Subtract ten minutes once a week because the teacher before me cuts into my hour, or doesn’t realize the bell rang and I have to search the school looking for my designated class
  • Subtract three to ten students per class who get pulled out to help another teacher with something, meet with the principal or work on special non-academic projects
  • Subtract full class hours designated for student government debates, Mass, assemblies, standardized tests and things I can’t even fathom this early in the year
  • Subtract national holidays, teacher training days and vacations with no class
  • Multiply by the percentage of students who actually bought their English book that I’m supposed to teach from (50 percent would be a stretch)
  • Add 33 eighth graders who won’t stop talking or running around the room until I threaten to glue them to the chairs
  • Multiply by the number of times I have ever left my house in Tabio without seeing a GMSB student (zero)

And, you get the numerical value of how many days go according to plan. And how much I know what I’m doing as a teacher, ever, if you can measure that numerically.