If You Give an Eight Year Old Boy a Math Lesson…


If you give an eight year old boy a math lesson, he will sit right down without hesitation, work diligently without interruptions, and accurately complete the lesson in record time.

Yeah right.

Maybe that’s how it goes for your kids, but here’s how it occasionally goes at my house:

If you give an eight year old boy a math lesson, he will give you a confused look, then ask you where his math book is. You will tell him that it is (as always) in the basket with all of his other school books and that he needs to run get it quickly.

He will begin to run up the stairs to get the math book, but will see a Nerf bullet on one of the steps on his way up. He will stop, pick up the Nerf bullet, examine it, then fling it toward the glass doors at the top of the stairs. The bullet will miss the door, but will instead hit one of his brothers as he comes around the corner. The bullet will thus be flung back and forth between the brothers until you realize what is happening and remind the eight year old (and his brother) of the jobs they are supposed to be doing.

As the eight year old arrives back in the kitchen with his math book (yay!), you will ask him if he also got a pencil. He will reply by telling you that while he does have his new green pencil sharpener, he has no pencil and that he can not find a pencil anywhere and that we must not have any pencils anymore because they were all, obviously, eaten by aliens.

You will show him where there are (as always) forty two (give or take) pencils ready and waiting to be used. He will proceed to take way too long choosing a pencil and will finally, with much urging from you, find his spot in the kitchen and open his math book (by using “the force”).

He will complete two math problems right away because suddenly he is racing against the clock in true boy “everything is a competition” fashion. But then he will accidentally drop his pencil on the ground, where – look out! – the volcanic lava is about to bubble over. He will warn you to “step back” so that your legs are not engulfed by hot lava, and will then try to dangle from the kitchen stool without touching the floor to retrieve the pencil before anyone or anything is harmed.

Just as he almost rescues the pencil from danger, he will see that there is a bug crawling on the floor. Volcanic lava forgotten, he will grab his green pencil sharpener and work to capture the bug. After three to five attempts at this, he will manage to coax the bug into its new home where it will stay while the eight year old settles down, finds his groove, and finishes his math lesson (while giving his new pet an in-depth explanation of how to “carry the one” while adding double digits).

The end.




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  1. Michelle says

    So glad to hear it’s not just MY 4th grade boy! Why is it that I can smile while reading your post, but I get so frustrated when my kid does the same thing????


  2. says

    As a mom of two adhd boys, I totally relate. :)


    Tyra Reply:

    I have twin 8 year old boys and find math to be a very hard subject for them. They are both ADHD as well and we have our share of good and bad days but the distractions are definitely a daily thing.


  3. Stacy says

    Wow! This sounds like my 6 year old daughter. She is worse though I think because inbetween all that distraction, she’s asking for food, or drink, she’s hot or cold, wants a stuffed animal to watch her do her school work…. i could seriously go on and on!!!


  4. Shelly says

    I find this hilarious! (As I have girls and live in a world of pink princesses and unicorns). As a true testament to your amazing wit…..I was actually imagining the illustrations that would accompany this story! I’m fairly certain you could sell this one. Just sayin’ ;)


  5. Tara H says

    Wow! I felt like I was just reading a few minutes out of our lives! With 5 boys, ages 4-11, this is always how school is! So glad to know we’re “normal”! :)


  6. says

    Since, you describe 8 year old boys, apparently at your house they grow out of that stage. When my son was that age, his soccer coach went to a meeting of coaches from all age groups. The high school coach was asked his biggest problem. He said the goalee drawing pictures in the mud. My son’s coach couldn’t believe that still happened in high school. I live in Western Washington and soccer season was fall. It rains here and rains and rains, hence the mud.By the way said son will be 48 in March, concentration is somewhat better, but no longer my problem.


    Mary Ellen Reply:

    Thank you! There is hope! The problem does eventually go away…just not in the way we may envision!


  7. Vicki says

    This has got to be my favorite of all yours posts! I have survived 5 eight year old boys and every one of them has been exactly like that. If I had a nickel for every “lost” math book! I still have 2 girls to get through that stage and I’m praying that as girls they will be different. Thanks for letting us know that we are normal.


  8. Jenika says

    Okay, okay…you MUST have been at MY house when writing this post!! And, I agree…I laugh at your story, but want to pull my hair out when my child does the very same thing! Boys will be boys! Oh, and the hot lava cracked me up…I never know where to step in my house to stay safe from the hot lava!!!


  9. Amanda says

    Sounds just like my 5 1/2 year old. Either I can’t get him to focus or he’s intentionally rushing through just to get it done, thus having to redo it. Good to hear its a typical boy thing and not just my kiddo. As a first time homeschooler I was beginning to wonder what I was doing wrong. Maybe I’m not, it’s just normal boy attention span.


    Julie Reply:

    Me too! I thought I was doing something wrong. Our two oldest are 6 and almost 8. This sounds exactly like both of them. So thankful for the timing of this post because I was getting very discouraged at my inability to keep their attention.


  10. Erin says

    That is great. Thanks for your experienced mom of boys advice. It is much appreciated. My son is the exact same. However, I have found an extensive checklist with all of his tasks broken down to be very helpful for him. Now…if only I could solve the “drama-drama everywhere” with my almost 10 year old girl!


  11. says

    Humorous to say the least. Sounds like my house at times. Was it a stink bug? We have a lot of those around the house. Yucky things. Between those and ladybirds, my allergies are working overtime.


  12. Pearl says

    My oldest homeschooler is only 6…but we’re well on our way to this same situation at our house. =) My 6 year old has discovered the Calvin and Hobbes comics…and this sounds like an episode straight from there. Thanks for putting a smile on my face this morning!


  13. stacy says

    So funny and yet so true! My little guy is only 6 and we go through this every single day! LOL! Thanks for sharing to let us all know that this is “normal” behavior.


  14. Jenni Peters says

    Thanks for sharing! Great to hear especially after Christmas break where it seems like they look at you like you’re speaking in a foreign language when you talk about school.


  15. Hillary says

    Ahhh…good my boys are normal. Just this morning I was trying to decide whether or not to correct a similar situation or give grace knowing they are young. :)


    Julie Reply:

    So, do you correct or give grace? This is us daily and it takes forever to get anything done. I’m always at a loss for how to handle it.


    Laura Reply:

    I do both. I let him know that I expect him to be a hard worker and to get the job done and that wasting time isn’t a good thing. But I also realize that (generally) he’s not being naughty and that I have not been a bad parent or need to have him tested for ADD. ;) He’s a normal little boy and he’s curious and has a hard time sitting still. My 15 year old can now get through his math lesson without catching bugs in his pencil sharpener – there really is hope!


    Christina Reply:

    I love your reply Laura. So often, we see it as having to choose between grace and correction when it really should always be about the two combined.

  16. Angela Anthony says

    WOW! This sounds just like my son who will be 8 next month. Glad I’m not the only one who goes through this :)


  17. Amy Sennes says

    Glad to know my son’s not the only one like this! I love how you wrote about it in a humorous and loving way.


  18. Grace says

    This was a nice ‘chuckle for the day’. Not only does it fit an 8 year old boy (and one of my used to be 8 year old girls) but still fits my “boy” at times, who is 19. :-) Got to love those children who find excitement in everything!


  19. Mona G. says

    You are funny…..this is so cute….you do have a gift for gab :) enjoy your blog…..have a good one, and will be waiting for the next thing…..figured sure you’d talk about the birthday cake !!!! Maybe that one is coming eh ?


  20. Christie S says

    I could so relate! My 4 boys – 6, 8, 10, 14- fit this to a T!!! It’s a joy to know other moms are living the same crazy lives!


  21. Colleena Stark says

    ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie’! Please tell me you’ve read this book! Your story sounds soo much like that! EXCEPT… My kids want me to mention that a mouse always wants another cookie. The two stories still have a similar feeling in my book. And I can relate as I have 4 boys who find lots of adventures on their way to this or that school lesson. You always put a smile on our faces. Have a blessed day!


  22. Jen Daley says

    Too cute! I read this to my 7-year old son and we both laughed, because we can completely relate:) Thanks for sharing!


  23. Sheri Beeker says

    Makes me feel so much better that this is how my life is with my 2 boys homeschooling…they are 6 and almost 5…so I must pray for more patience as it will probably not get much better.


  24. says

    I once heard that Mr. Bean is based on 8 year old boys. As I watched my then eight year old I just had to agree ~ everything is done the hard way/ the long way/ the illogical way. Sure they accomplish the thing ~ just differently to how I would :)
    I promise that by 10 they are much more responsible & easy….. now if you could just remind me that in 2 years time when my twin boys are eight…..


  25. Jennifer L. says

    I laughed my way through your story. It’s the same thing at my house with my 7yo girl (different distractions of course). My favorite part were the pictures at the end. What was the first thought in my head when I saw the green pencil sharpener with the bug? “Oh, it’s a true story.” Thanks for the pick me up. Precious! :)


  26. Heather D. says

    This is so Awesome! So glad to know that God designed boys the world over to live curious action packed days. We go thru the very same thing, 5 1/2 and 7 1/2 yr old boys here, almost every day and esp. with math even though he is very good at it. I will have to read it to my 7 yr old:)


  27. Amber Dawn says

    Haha, loved this! My 3 year old son is already just like that… the other day, after I asked him to do something, he informed me that he couldn’t because “da big elephant is getting me, it’s sitting on me!!”, as he lay sprawled out on my living room floor. Love their imaginations!


  28. Susan F says

    This was the two boys who lived in my house ‘a few years back’.
    I miss those days but knew I had to send them to school because they would still be in third or fourth grade at age 22 and 24. ;)


  29. Faith says

    Thanks for the encouragement Laura! It’s amazing the way God timed this post too, because I was having a “math lesson” with my 9 year old daughter yesterday too, and was getting frustrated thinking I was the only one , but God used this to encourage me and remind me that I am not alone :) Hang in there and I will pray for you to continue to see the joy and humor in it all, and you pray for me too if you get a chance! Have a blessed day! :)


  30. says

    Thanks for keeping it real Laura!! You made me smile and reminded me that I’m not alone when I have said “please sit down and concentrate” 40 billion times in one morning. Why is it always math?? LOL


  31. Stephanie says

    Thank you for this. I have been rather discouraged lately because of my boys’ lack of attention. We have 5 girls, and these two boys were born right in the middle of them, back to back (ages 9 and 11).So, at least they have each other, but they are so different from girls! And I have a tomboy (and was one myself), so I would think at least one of the girls would be like this too, but so far that’s not the case. It’s good to hear that other moms of boys experience this same thing (and YES! So easy to smile at their cuteness in a blog post, not so easy when it’s messing with the precious little time I have to squeeze any tidbit of education into their brains!).


  32. Bella says

    Thank you for sharing! I actually read this to my almost 8 year old son. He totally laughed thinking he was the only one who got his pencil that way. He said that that is the same as at our house except “we squish bugs”. He then proceeded to make up a similar poem regarding “if you give a dad an iphone”.

    I started a pencil lost to lava fund and it has worked wonders. First is free then each pencil dropped after gets charged 5 cents. I haven’t actually collected any money yet. I just warn and that’s enough. Now I’m inspired to make a sign and post it in our school zone.

    Thanks so good laughs!


  33. Mercina says

    I am in my 18th year of homeschooling and my fifth child, an eight year old boy. It’s funny hearing everyone’s comments. I have been through this with my other children, boys and girls. However, my boys seem to be the ones that like to pace while solving the problems, crawling under the table to do their work, or asking if they could take a break and run around the house (literally). My youngest is an eight year old boy and in 4th grade. If I hadn’t had other ones go through this I would be shaking my head. I told my husband if our son were in public school, they would’ve labeled him something and put him on drugs. He is circling me as I type this. I’m grateful for the community of like-minded women. This beautiful blog illustrates the challenges and joys of being our children’s teachers. I wouldn’t change a thing. By the way, my oldest son completed his MBA last summer and is married and full-time employed in his dream job. My oldest daughter is in college and just earned a premier internship. My second son is a 16 year old with the highest GPA in his college course he is now taking. My fourth child, a daughter, is writing at college level at 13. So, I have hope for my 4th grader and all our 4th graders. Keep up the good work ladies! The fruit is worth the pruning.


    Nicole Reply:

    Thank you.


  34. Nicole says

    THAT WAS AWESOME!!! Just what I needed to hear and, while told very humorously, helped me to stop and chill out. My son is 5 and I find myself getting way too impatient with “rabbit trails”. This was amazing perspective to me and very hilarious. At 5, I can still relate to the distractions :)
    Thank you.


  35. Debbie says

    I hate to take away all hope, but they keep on finding other things to do on their way to do schoolwork/chores/etc., even in high school! And they still find ways to annoy their siblings on the way. But, the oldest is a sr. in college, and the middle son is taking online CLEP prep courses to earn college credit in his jr. year/high school, so I guess they turn out ok in spite of the procrastination!


  36. Iris says

    My 8 year old does not get distracted in math it’s phonics/language. It is all about cars/trucks racing and or crashing. But of course this can’t be done quietly. We have more sound effects than an actual monster truck rally. He takes TaeKwonDo so when I’ve had my fill and need a few minutes, he does forms or whatever (hopefully it tires him out a bit) and gives me a minute of quiet reflection. Gotta love them boys.


  37. Wendy hoff says

    Love this! My oldest is a 7 yr old boy (then I have 3 girls) so this post from a very experienced mom of boys is funny and encouraging to me.


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