Elizabeth Banks: ‘Third grade math is nearly impossible to teach’

Elizabeth Banks was on Jimmy Kimmel Live promoting her show Mrs. America, with Cate Blanchett, on Hulu. It’s based on the true story of the movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. Cate plays conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly, who worked to successfully block the ERA. It also stars Uzo Adubo as Shirley Chisholm, Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem and Elizabeth plays Jill Ruckelshaus. (I hadn’t heard of her before, she was a leader in the National Women’s Political Caucus.) Anyway Jimmy asked Elizabeth how she’s holding up and she told a funny story about her husband stockpiling ramen. Plus she said homeschooling is hard.

How are you holding up?
I’m as grateful as I can be to have my kids to focus on. I’m worried for everyone all the time. Anxiety is level 11.

Are you hoarding anything?
We stocked up on a few things early. My husband is the one who really panicked. He has never really done the shopping for the family. He went online thinking he was doing us a favor. The only thing that got delivered to the house is an industrial size box of ramen noodles. [It’s] everyone’s favorite flavor, chipotle chicken, which is truly the more disgusting version of ramen. I love a ramen noodle as much as anyone, but this was a real experiment.

On if she’s home schooling
I have a first grader and a third grader, seven and nine. I want to take the opportunity to say thank you to all the teachers out there. Third grade math is nearly impossible to teach.

[From Jimmy Kimmel Live]

After that Jimmy asked her a few questions about third grade math and she got them all right. Only the third one was tricky but she figured it out. (That one took me a minute too.) This reminds me of when Jason Bateman said, also on Kimmel, that he was having trouble teaching second grade math. So many of you said that the new math is tripping you up, which I can relate to. My 15-year-old surpassed me in math many years ago but I remember being baffled when he was around that age too. It’s not solving the problems that’s hard, it’s the complicated methods they use to get to the answers. I feel so bad for those of you who have to homeschool now. I’m lucky that my son is able to do his own work. Also, I bought just one box of ramen but it was chicken and my son loves ramen and makes it on his home.

Elizabeth’s charity she mentioned on air is the Center for Reproductive Rights. She said that “abortion is a constitutionally protected right. The government shouldn’t be involved in deciding how many people are in your family, especially now when people are facing such unstable and anxiety-ridden times.” Right on!

Here’s that interview!

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Me every time my kids say “mom”

A post shared by Elizabeth Banks (@elizabethbanks) on

She looks so much like old school Jane Fonda in that costume!

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24 Responses to “Elizabeth Banks: ‘Third grade math is nearly impossible to teach’”

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  1. Lady D says:

    A few years back, my friend’s husband took a six-week online course so he could help their son with his grade three algebra homework. At the time I was very happy mine was done school.

  2. Swack says:

    Former math teacher and I help with the math and teach it the “old fashioned” way. None of this common core stuff that seem so much more complicated.

    • Ali says:

      What has changed in the teaching of math?

      • Swack says:

        It’s difficult to explain here. I’ll try. If you multiply 34 by 67 you draw a box split into 2 rows and 2 columns. Above one column you put 60, above the next column you put 7. On the left of the first row you put 30 and to the left of the second row you put 4. Then you multiply 30 and 60 and put it in the box they have in common. Then you multiply 30 by 7 and put it into the box they have in common. Then you do the same thing with the 3. Then you add up those 4 numbers. Too many places to make mistakes. They eventually teach the vertical method as doing this with more than 2 digits by 2 digits gets really tedious. I realize they want to teach different methods but this is ridiclous.

      • fifee says:

        That working sounds crazy and awkward!

        I remember way back in the early 80’s when I started secondary school and couldnt understand some arthimetic/maths problem and asked my father to help. He showed me the way he was taught way back in the 40’s/50’s and all I can remember is me shouting “Thats not how you do it!”. The answer was the same, but if i had shown the working to the teacher he wouldve wondered who actually did the work!

      • Oh-Dear says:

        students are being taught the conceptual understanding of math more than the procedural understanding. So when teaching addition, there is a focus on ten-base additions and finding friendly numbers. So when adding 37+25, students would begin with 30+20 then add 7+5 to that. Or they could use friendly numbers by adding 25+25+12.
        A lot of the research for this comes out the global assessments of culture who excel in math. Their numerical language is rooted in base 10 words (instead of ten, twenty, thirty, which have no connection to number sense, many eastern culture use phrasing like 1-10, 2-10’s, 3-10’s) so there is a built in schema for understanding number sense of larger numbers. Having a conceptual understanding will give them more confidence to use different strategies in the higher level maths instead of relying on memorizing the formula. Students are still expected to learn the formula after they understand the relationships between the variables, and they are still encouraged to ‘memorize’ (develop fluency in math operations), but that is no longer the first focus. (I’m a Canadian parent of kids who went through conceptual math models, a former special education teacher and teach preservice teachers) and in provincial math results are consistently pretty high internationally)

      • Anna says:

        Thanks @Oh-Dear I learned a lot!

    • Veronica S. says:

      Common core is actually how my ADHD brain does mental math, but I feel like it’s very….complicated in terms of how they present it up front. It’s attempting intuitive approaches to math but not always shown in an intuitive way because the education leading up to it isn’t matched up to the same logical processing pattern.

      • Kate says:

        Yeah I was telling my husband I heard this “new math” thing was really tough so we looked it up together and he said that’s basically how his mom (born in Vietnam) taught him math. And when I was watching an example video on youtube I realized that’s also how I do mental math. I think you’re right that it just sounds more complicated when you have to teach it to someone who hasn’t internalized it yet. And what @Swack was describing sounds way complicated although I’ve never tried doing mental multiplication past the tables I memorized in grade school!

  3. Arb says:

    With her money, she could get herself an online tutor. There are a gazillion resources out there for math for those of us who have the time and finances to spend time online. I honestly think many people are not accustomed to having to do work that doesn’t appeal to them. She’s a bright, capable woman. She should recognize the difference between a mundane kind of work and actual hard work. There are people who carry water for hours every day instead of going to school. Learning math is nearly impossible for them. Complaining about inconvenience is entitled and obnoxious.

    • NotSoSocialButterfly says:

      Or just subscribe to Khan Academy!

    • lucy2 says:

      I mean…she’s joking around on a talk show. And saying what pretty much every parent I know is saying.

    • ArizonaRose says:

      Oh come on. She’s saying that what teachers do is hard. She’s recognizing other people’s hard work. That’s not entitlement. It’s gratitude.

  4. TheOriginalMia says:

    Homeschooling is hard. My sister is in 5th grade. I don’t see how teachers do it. Good Lord, it’s been a chore to get her in the proper mindset to do virtual learning.

    Common Core is the most ridiculous way of doing math. What was wrong with the old way?!

  5. MIchelle says:

    As a third grade teacher, I very much appreciate this!

  6. Veronica S. says:

    Not surprising, to be honest. The only reason I’ve retained so much math is because I worked a career that required routine math calculation. You keep the intuitive concepts (symmetry, proportion, estimation, etc.) but lose most of the details.

  7. deadnotsleeping says:

    I said this on the Jason Bateman thread, but very late in the day.

    Khan Academy is a life saver!!

    My oldest was in 4th grade when he came home saying his teacher said no parents would know how to do the math and to look it up on khan academy. He was right! I knew how to do it the old way, but not the steps/way he was required to show. So we got in the habit of watching Khan Academy’s very straight forward (free!) videos explaining how to do it so that I could help explain it when he got stuck again.

    I had to look up “algebra tiles” last week. Which I managed to make it 40some years without needing, but apparently my kid needs it.

    • Ali says:

      Thanks for that tip! I couldn’t help my 4/5th grader with common core math but thankfully he’s good at math and didn’t need much help. I have a kindergartener now and with homeschooling I’m the math teacher and even just teaching addition and subtraction is different.

  8. KBeth says:

    Math was always a struggle for me, common core has me lost when I try to help my youngest child.

  9. Gd says:

    I’m a third grade teacher. The “new” math is basically Singapore math – it’s a totally different way of thinking. It took me about the entire school year to figure it out and start thinking in the Singapore style, but now that I do, it’s amazing. The kids are able to soar with this style of math. They can do so much more because it’s so intuitive once you get the hang of it

    If you’re trying to help your child, try looking into Singapore math. It’s all about simplifing and mental math. Good luck and thanks for helping your kids keep up!!

  10. Aang says:

    I just don’t get this. It was harder for me to teach them how to tie their shoes than it was to read, write, do math. Homeschooling isn’t hard if you just relax and realize that if you can teach your kid to eat with a fork or ride a bike you can teach them arithmetic. Calculus? Maybe not.

  11. TeamAwesome says:

    Constantly saying what’s wrong with the old way is one of the reasons we lag so far behind in education. The old way wasn’t learner centered. The old way didn’t take individual learning strengths and weaknesses into consideration. The old way says learn it this way, usually the way I was taught, or you get left behind. As an educator I am constantly reassessing how I teach and the way that I teach in order to make sure that my students are getting the absolute best instruction. It isn’t enough to just memorize things if you want higher level critical thinking to occur, and yes that means even at the 3rd grade level.

  12. Grant says:

    I don’t have children so I can’t comment on schooling but I can say that Mrs. America is fantastic and I am thoroughly enjoying all of the performances.