For the past five or six years, my son has cooked the turkey, mashed the potatoes, and prepared homemade gravy on Thanksgiving. He started at age 10 or 11. We’re not sure. A couple of years ago, my husband thought it would be a good idea for someone else to learn to cook a turkey. He and a different son shopped, prepared, and roasted the turkey. Everyone else busily prepared side dishes: cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, scalloped corn, and of course mashed potatoes. In all the busy-ness, no one noticed the lack of turkey aroma.
When the timer beeped, someone pulled the turkey out of the oven. The turkey looked beautiful. Well, it looked beautiful, for a shrink-wrapped turkey.
We use roasting bags to cook our Thanksgiving bird. Not much to clean up, and the turkey turns out perfect every time. This year’s shoppers had spotted a box with a picture of a turkey on it and without reading the label they purchased and used a basting bag. This bag was not meant to cook in, but to marinate the bird in herbs and salt water before cooking.
About half of us opted to eat the turkey. The other half concluded that, while the beautifully roasted poultry might not kill us that day, we have no idea what the long-term effects would be of eating turkey roasted in a basting bag. We opted for a turkey-less Thanksgiving. It’s not like there was nothing else to eat!
This story came to mind in part because we’re approaching Thanksgiving, and in part, because I’ve scored lots of math tests and other math assignments since school started. I will probably never cease to be surprised about the number of errors caused by not reading the directions. Instead, students have looked at the picture, or the numbers, or the symbols and done what they thought should be done with them. They saw the turkey on the box and roasted the turkey.
Students, please read the instructions. Yes, you did some math, but if you didn’t answer the question you’ve likely missed the point of the problem. And once you’ve solved something, go back and read again. Sometimes we solve and we think we’re done, but the question has not been answered. Pay attention to the details. It will pay off in real life. The turkey will be delicious!