Friday, September 12, 2008


"Hey where's the 10?" Trainboy asked yesterday, examining my computer. From there we started making numbers using the digits. I thought of John Holt letting kids explore typewriters as I watched him carefully pick numbers and sometimes ask me which ones he needed to make certain numbers.

Dinoguy came in..."What'cha doing?" Suddenly he was done with his computer game and sent Trainboy scampering off for a turn and was at my side. "C'mon Mom, let's do numbers!" He starts typing lots of digits and then asks me to read the number. I decide to move to excel to be able to separate the numbers better and auto-format them with commas. He creates a long row of numbers between 1 and 15 digits each and then asks me to read them, taking over on numbers he is confident in his ability to read. We do this about three times before I sense weariness and suggest a new activity. Nope, we're not done yet! It's my turn to make the numbers. So I make some 4-6 digit numbers with zeroes as place holders in various spots to determine his ability to read them.

Dinoguy starts singing the numbers while playing drums on his knees. He self corrects any mistakes. Apparently rules for reading numbers such as 20,003 or 400,600 or 600,980 are well understood. No wonder he was writing numbers in the millions and higher. Those are the ones he's trying to learn the rules to right now. This leads to a discussion of larger numbers, and I investigate that I am using the right labels for numbers beyond quadrillion. I am, but learn in the process that a billion in America is different from a billion in Europe, or was until recently when we made them change their system! Absolutely fascinating. We start making larger numbers in Excel and encounter its rounding error for numbers over 15 digits. We write out a googol, and then numbers even larger and discuss scientific notation/powers. After typing a number with a few thousand zeroes after it, Dinoguy is done and wants to move on to fractions.

I reformat the numbers for decimals and think I need to explain decimals. Nope. He learned it on Cyberchase already and starts explaining some of the rules of division to me with examples. Well that answers my question of if he was understanding the math concepts presented on the show. (Which is aimed at older children and has math concepts traditionally not taught until upper elementary or middle school.) I think lunch ended our fun and after lunch we had friends over to play.

What fun it was! Later in the evening, Trainboy comes and asks me to make numbers with him again and we count to 125 using the columns in Excel. Then he starts discussing the speed of cars vs. rockets and trains.

This isn't a one day thing, though I wanted to share these experiences today while they were fresh in my mind. Dinoguy repeats any numbers he hears or sees. He reads them on any papers and asks questions about symbols and what the numbers mean. We measure his height several times a week to see if he's growing.

Fascinating isn't it?

The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple. ~S. Gudder

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections On The Human Condition

Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting. ~Gottfried Leibniz

If there is a God, he's a great mathematician. ~Paul Dirac


Jessica said...

that is so interesting. ethan loves numbers, too. in fact, the only thing he wanted me to tell his kindergarten teacher about him when he started school was that he could count to 100.

my kids like that cyberchase show, too. but to be honest, i had no idea what it was about! thanks for sharing your love and enthusiasm for math.

mariann and Tory said...

I love to watch cyberchase with the kids. We grab some popcorn and watch that and arthur too. I love the lego station! That just looked like to much fun.
P.S. we do have a strict no missing school...but I said to heck with it and went. When the school starts paying me child support, then I will listen! (quoted from TOry)

Christa said...

Wow, Brett would have loved hanging with you guys that day! He is the number guy in the family!

Stephanie S. said...

I bookmarked the page with the list, by the way.

Roni said...

Unschooled learning is the best!!

What an awesome day you had!

We love CyberChase, too! ...though I guess I need to figure out what time it comes on b/c we don't seem to catch it very often. :-)


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