# Keeping Up with the Kids

#### By Kathy Mitchell

April 23, 2016 4 min read

Dear Annie: I want to write a letter to all the adult children who enjoy overnight visits to Grandma's house with the kids. We love to have you.

But I have to tell you that Grandma is getting older and slower. She's also caring for Great-Grandma. Oh, she puts on a good show, but the truth is, she needs to rest after you leave. So, I would like to make a suggestion. Before you rush back home, bring the sheets and towels to the laundry room and wash them. Make the bed. You might even sweep the kitchen floor. Consider this a good example for your children to see how to conduct themselves when they start bringing their own children to your house someday.

Please remember that she is "your mom" and not "your maid." I'm looking forward to having you back next year. We love you. — Kansas Granddad

Dear Kansas: Adult children often freeze their parents at the moment they left home and don't see that their energy levels and physical health have changed. We hope they will listen to your suggestions — and Granddad, we hope you are helping Grandma, too.

Dear Annie: This is in response to the letter from "Perplexed Dad," whose son had a math problem wherein both agreed the answer was 8, but the teacher said it was 6. You agreed with Dad.

I'm a retired math teacher with a Ph.D. in math education, and I'd like to say that the "runs around the track four times more" problem probably has no right answer because it is so poorly written. If it said, "John made four times as many laps as Sue," it would be multiplication. If it said, "John made four more laps than Sue," it would be addition. The word "times" often (but not always) means to multiply and often (but not always) means to add.

Another good answer to that problem might be 10: If Sue makes two laps and John makes four times more, that would be eight more, for a total of 10. If I were the teacher, I'd ask the kids to write a problem about running around a track that requires multiplication and another that requires addition.

But there are two really worrisome issues about this problem in my view. The first is that kids get discouraged enough about math without poorly written problems. The second is that these poorly written problems are everywhere, including on tests, and kids are essentially penalized for failing mind reading. — K

Dear K.: We heard from a lot of readers, many of whom were angry with us for not knowing the answer was definitely 6, and others who said it was obviously 8, and a few, like you, who said it could be 10.

We totally agree that the question was poorly written and the meaning ambiguous. Here's why we concurred with Dad that it was a multiplication problem: The son is 8 years old and in third grade. A simple addition problem of two-plus-four would be too easy for that grade level. Most third graders are doing multiplication and division. But we're delighted to mess with everything and go with 10. Our thanks to all who wrote.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at Facebook.com/AskAnnies. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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