There have seriously been moments in my marriage when the greatest stressor we faced as a couple was the elementary math curriculum. I never mastered anything beyond algebra myself, and of course mathematics education just looked a lot different in the ’80s. The Man is pretty good at math—he can do calculus—but he doesn’t know how to teach little kids like I do. So sometimes the only way for the Girl to get her homework done is for The Man to explain it to me so I can explain it to her. I wasn’t sure how funny this joke was, but I told it to one of the volunteer moms and the librarian at my library and they both laughed.
Presumably, knowing algebra is something of an achievement, because I still scored in the 66th percentile on the math section of the GRE despite being, of course, a liberal arts major. That means I’m better at math than 66% of all people who have, or are about to have, completed a bachelor’s degree and hope to attend graduate school. This tells me that most people must not know any math at all.
There’s also a little joke here about the kind of helicopter parents who would call the school to challenge the basic curriculum because their kid didn’t like it, because these people exist. They are not uncommon today, but that’s another thing you didn’t see too much of in the ’80s.