No, seriously, I meant wine problems, like in the mathematical sense.
Sometimes, I help the girls with their homework. I say sometimes, because I am not always sure how much of a help I am. One time the eldest forgot her grammar workbook at school so I was handed the phone as a mother somewhere in the Latin quarter dictated 2 pages of complex text with the adjectives left out so that the students could add tem in the gender appropriate manner. When I finished, dripping sweat, my 10 year old slave driver scrutinized my pages of much practiced cursive and sighed, then requested I recopy it, using a ruler to make the blanks neater.
But math, I can do. I think the world problems that elementary students do are very indicative of their society. The other day the oldest girl was working on the following word problem:
Three friends go to a restaurant. The all get the same menu (a set price for a 2 or three course meal), order a bottle of wine, and two of them finish with an espresso. The bill is 72 Euros. The bottle of wine being 14 Euros, and the espressos each costing 2 Euros, what was the menu price?
Don’t get me wrong – this is an exceedingly practical word problem for a child growing up in the center of Paris. But what had me laughing was the wine. Maybe I am wrong, but I am pretty certain that alcohol is nonexistent in the workbooks of American elementary school children. I told this to my 10 year old Parisian, and she shrugged her shoulders and then leaned forward and said conspiratorially, “Les français sont fous pour le vin” (“The French are crazy for wine.”). She then showed me how about one in every eight or so word problems dealt with wine, calculating the number of bottles in a shipment, the glasses in each bottle, how many bottles to have for a dinner party, etc. At first, my sense of propriety and age level sensitivity was shocked. But then again, she is French. I guess there is something to be said for applicable school assignments.