When I started this blog, I had no children of my own but spent lots of time talking math with the children of my friends. This talk began to pop up more frequently on my twitter feed as well in posts. Now that I have children of my own, I am wholly invested in the project of talking mathematics with them (whether they notice it or not)1. This has resulted in many moments of surprise and delight, and continues to fuel my interest in the roots of mathematical learning (far before I get to see them in secondary school).
Sometime after pyjama time and before bedtime, a math conversation broke out. My wife and I were visiting some good friends, when the topic of a recently purchased board game came up. It was bought at a teaching specialty store and designed to teach addition and subtraction of twos. After examination, I didn’t like the overly symbolic structure, and asked their 5-year old if she wanted to play a math game. She ran and got a piece of paper. When she finally got called up to bed (much later than expected) I took the page and folded it into my back pocket.
Here it is:
I have been spending considerable effort looking for situations to “mathematize” in my daily interactions with students. Sadly, upper-level students are so mark and answer focused that they spend little time wondering about emerging problems with me.
My wife and I spend a lot of time with friends who have three young children. I spend most of that time engaged in a combination of trampoline dodge ball and mathematical discourse. The middle child is most willing to think mathematically. During one of our conversations, he decided to turn the tables. What resulted is a wonderful look into a child’s perception of what “mathematics” does.
Him: Maybe you can answer my question?
Me: Sure. What is it?
Him: Ummm… (literally scratches head)