copyright © 2008 Jeff Goode

Intelligent Math

by Jeff Goode

(LIGHT UP ON: PRINCIPAL MERRITT nervously waiting with an angry couple, MR. and MRS. KENNELLY.)

(Enter TEACH.)

MERRITT.  Here he is!

TEACH.  Principal Merritt, you wanted to see me?

MERRITT.  Come in, Mr. Teach. You know Mr. & Mrs. Kennelly?

TEACH.  No, I haven’t had the pleasure.

POPPA K.  And you’re not going to! Is this the man?

MERRITT.  Mr. Teach is your son’s algebra teacher.

MOMMA K.  You should be ashamed of yourself.

MERRITT.  Please have a seat.

TEACH.  I’m not sure I understand–

MERRITT.  Mr. & Mrs. Kennelly have asked for this meeting — and I and the School Board have enthusiastically complied — over concerns about what’s being taught in your fourth period math class.

TEACH.  I think there’s been some sort of misunderstanding. Your son is doing very well in algebra.

MOMMA K.  Oh God, I knew it!!

POPPA K.  Al Jazeira? What is that, Greek? Greek Orthodox?

MERRITT.  Mr. & Mrs. Kennelly are concerned that what Lenny is learning in his math classes contradicts their own personal religious beliefs.

TEACH.  Are they numerologists?

POPPA K.  Hell, no!

MOMMA K.  No, we’re Baptists.

TEACH.  Then I don’t understand.

POPPA K.  I guess you never heard of the Ten Commandments?

TEACH.  The Ten Commandments?

MOMMA K.  Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill–

TEACH.  I’m sorry, has Lenny killed someone?

POPPA K.  Is that some sort of sick joke?

MERRITT.  Mr. Teach, I’m going to have to ask you to take this matter more seriously.

TEACH.  I don’t know what the "matter" is!

MERRITT.  Then you should know that Mr. & Mrs. Kennelly head up a large and influential parents group, who are concerned that what Lenny and students like him, are taught in the public schools conflicts with what they are taught in Sunday school.

TEACH.  But I’m the math teacher. I don’t teach religion.

POPPA K.  Oh, here we go again…

MERRITT.  I’m afraid that’s exactly what Mr. Yang the science teacher said last year. And the School Board has made it clear to me that they don’t want another fiasco like that on our hands.

TEACH.  I’m sorry, Mr. & Mrs. Kennelly, no offense, but I don’t understand how teaching Lenny basic math could possibly contradict…anything.

MOMMA K.  Mr. Teach, you have to understand, my husband is a businessman.

MERRITT.  A very successful businessman, who donates a great deal of money to School Board reelection campaigns.

MOMMA K.  But he’s not so good with numbers and such.

POPPA K.  (points at his head) Keep it all up here.

MOMMA K.  He’s more of a people person.

(He threatens to hit her. She shuts up.)

POPPA K.  But thanks to your newfangled math, Lenny came home a couple weeks ago, and offered to go over the company books for me.

MOMMA K.  We thought it was cute at first. But then he started telling us how the business was in the red. And that we were going to have to file for bankruptcy!

POPPA K.  He called me an incompetent businessman to my face.

MOMMA K.  Well, we washed his mouth out with soap, but it didn’t do any good. He’s lost all respect for his father.

POPPA K.  Sasses me all the time now.

MOMMA K.  He keeps asking where we’re going to get the money to send him to college.

POPPA K.  And every night I come home from work, he wants to know how much of his inheritance I’ve blown today.

TEACH.  But I don’t see what your business acumen — or lack — has to do with religion.

POPPA K.  I knew you didn’t know your commandments!

TEACH.  Thou shalt not steal?

POPPA K.  No! Honor thy father and mother! It doesn’t matter if I’m an idiot, that boy’s got to respect us.

MOMMA K.  Lenny has given us nothing but attitude since he came home with all those progressive ideas about numbers and profits.

POPPA K.  Honor they father and mother, Mr. Teach! And your agnostic algebra gabble-de-goop goes completely against that.

TEACH.  I’m not sure that’s true. But for the sake of argument, what do you want us to do? Pull Lenny out of math class?

MERRITT.  No, now, nobody’s saying that. Everybody needs math. Right, Mr. & Mrs. Kennelly?

MOMMA K.  It’s one of the three R’s. Reading, writing, and religion. (puzzled) And math.

MERRITT.  School budgets are tight enough, as it is, we don’t want to go shooting off at the mouth about cutting the curriculum.

TEACH.  So what do you want then?

MERRITT.  Mr. & Mrs. Kennelly have brought in this new textbook they would like you to teach from.

MOMMA K.  It was developed by our church. It’s called Intelligent Math.

TEACH.  Intelligent Math?

MOMMA K.  I don’t completely understand it–

POPPA K.  No one does. It’s all gabble-de-goop!

MOMMA K.  But it’s very good, and it’s approved by our pastor.

MERRITT.  It basically teaches that the answer to any math equation, can be found by asking your parents, or your spiritual advisor.

MOMMA K.  Or you can ask God for the answer directly, if you happen to be a spiritual advisor, or if you have children.

TEACH.  And you want me to teach this instead of real math?

MERRITT.  No, no, nobody’s suggesting that.

POPPA K.  And we’ll thank you not to call it "real math" anymore. It’s misleading. "Liberal Math" or "Fuzzy Math", that’s what you should call it from now on.

MOMMA K.  We’re not saying you can’t teach "Gay Math" in schools.

POPPA K.  "Terrorist Math".

MOMMA K.  We just want our children to know that there are alternatives, and they’re all equally valid.

POPPA K.  "Alternative Math"! That’s what they oughta call it.

TEACH.  So you want me to teach all my students that there’s no such thing as math, so the two of you don’t have to explain to your son why you’re bad with money.

MOMMA K.  We want you to teach Intelligent Math as an alternative to this Alternative Math that’s causing all the trouble.

TEACH.  But that’s crazy! There are no alternatives. Math is empirical.

POPPA K.  I don’t even know what that means.

TEACH.  Of course you don’t. Because you’re an imbecile.

POPPA K.  I don’t know what that means either, but I’m picking up a tone I don’t like.

MOMMA K.  There are always alternatives, Mr. Teach–Maybe the gay agenda thinks one and one is two, but in a traditional family, baby makes three.

POPPA K.  And from now on, there’s no number 666. It creeps people out.

MOMMA K.  Anything that has 3 sixes in it adds up to Jesus fish.

MERRITT.  So, three times six equals Jesus fish.

POPPA K.  It’s easy to remember, because it rhymes.

TEACH.  Okay, I’m sorry, but if you want to counterprogram what your kids are learning in school, you should do it on the weekend, like it’s been done for 2000 years. I think that’s a tradition we can all get behind!

MERRITT.  Well, I’m glad that’s resolved. So we’ll start with the Intelligent Math on Monday.

TEACH.  What?!

MERRITT.  I kinda like it. It even sounds smarter.

TEACH.  You can’t expect me to teach my students this crap, just to please a few crackpots?

MERRITT.  Mr. Teach, the Kennellys are not a "few". They represent a clear majority of the complaints we receive about our school system. And this is a public school. Nobody expects you to do your job. But I do expect you to do the math.

(Merritt hands him the book and walks out.)



First performed at No Shame Los Angeles on February 22, 2008.

[Back to Workshop] Reading room