Counting Down to the Weekend

“Do I go to music class and swim class today?”

“No, today is Monday. Remember, I said you go to work for 5 days before you go to music class and swim class.” I hold up my fingers one by one as I call out, “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.”

I put down all five fingers and continue, “So far we went to work on Monday and we’ll go today on Tuesday.” I put those two fingers back up as I talk.

Without skipping a beat she says, “Three more days! Today it will be 3, and then 2, and then 1.”

This was completely unexpected and so fascinating to hear! If only I hadn’t been in the middle of rushing to get dressed and ready to walk out the door to work. Looking back, I would have loved to ask, “How did you know there are three days left?”

In thinking about this conversation throughout the day, I’ve thought about all the play we’ve done with counting over the past several months. Fingers are a favorite of mine since they’re always close at hand.

In the car, one of the games we’ll play is that I hold up some number of fingers at my chest and ask, “Guess how many fingers I’m holding up.” She makes a guess and then I hold them up so she can see if she got it right. Nothing fancy, but it gives her a lot of opportunities to count and see quantities from 1 to 5.

Another game I like to play is, “Do you want me to show you 5 really fast?” She says, “Yes.” I put my hand behind my back and say, “Ready, set, go!” And then I whip out my hand with all my fingers out. She counts my fingers every time to prove there are 5 fingers, but I’m beginning to wonder if the counting is really necessary.

So I’m curious about how she knew it was 3 days until Saturday. The way I held my hand, she couldn’t see the three fingers that were down. Did she see them in her mind? Did she subitize? Did she count one by one super fast? There was hardly a heartbeat between what I said and her response. The counting back from 3 was really fast also.

Things to explore as we talk more.

I love being a parent and getting to have these kinds of conversations with my daughter. When she surprises me with a new understanding or insight, it’s like a wonderful gift. I treasure each and every one.

(Side note: Her Montessori school calls their learning time “work periods” so we’ve been calling it “going to work” since she started there a year ago. She likes the idea that she goes to work everyday like Daddy and Papa do. If I accidentally say something about going to school she’ll usually correct me, “No, I go to work!”)

[UPDATE 10/5/2016] This morning she asked a question she asks pretty much everyday without fail, “Is today a work day?”

“What did I say when you asked me last night?”

“It is a work day.”

I go back to eating my breakfast.

“We went on this day and this day, and this is today.” I look over and she’s holding up three fingers in front of her face. She’s grabbing the tip of her middle finger as she’s saying that this is today. She tells herself, “There’s two days left!”

Clearly our conversation yesterday wasn’t a fluke! She wasn’t even talking to me at the end. She was talking it out and making the observation all to herself. How cool!

A little later she’s in the kitchen and I ask her, “Can you show me how many workdays we’ve had on the Math Rack?” (By the way, we’ve had fun counting on the Math Rack, but I’ve never asked her to do anything like this before.)

She pulls over three beads, “One, two, three.” Then she holds up her thumb, touches it to the first bead and says, “One.” She holds up her pointer finger, touches it to the second bead and says, “Two.” Finally she holds up her middle finger, touches it to the third bead and says, “Three.”

“Can you show me how many days we have left down here?” I point to the bottom Math Rack.

She pulls over two beads, “One, two.” Then she puts her thumb, pointer, and middle fingers back up and moves her hand over to the two beads she just pulled over so that the two fingers that are still down are touching them.

I feel like she’s turned a corner developmentally and a whole new landscape has opened up. I’m so excited to explore it with her!

8 thoughts on “Counting Down to the Weekend”

1. lovemathweb

Your post brought a smile and memories back. I remember telling my daughters when they were in elementary school, that I had to go to work and they had a work too. Their work was to learn as much as they could. Enjoy! time passes really fast, and wait for the hard questions.

I believe that is why I am teaching, for those conversations and those “aha moments”, my favorite one is when a child says to me, “Oh, I get it now!”

1. bstockus Post author

Everyone keeps telling me time flies by. At first it didn’t feel that way, but the older she gets, the faster it seems like we’re getting to where we are now. That’s one reason I like having my blog because one of the things I can capture are these conversations and moments that I might forget otherwise. They help me stay in the moment and help me relive them whenever I want.

2. mathmastersblog

This is so sweet, Brian, and I love hearing about how playful your time is with your daughter, and it’s so evident how much we can learn through play. She’s going to be a Math Rock Star when she gets to grade school!
I wish I’d done more of this when my kids were babies, but don’t worry I haven’t stopped trying to insert some playful math with my 8, 10, 14, and 18 year olds, just have to be a little sneakier about it now. 😉

3. Regina Payne

I’m so proud of you as a parent, Brian. You have let her make her own way with thinking and it shows when she is doing it on her own in the car without you prompting. What I really like is that you’ve taken the time to listen to her and ask her questions. Although my kids are grown, there were so many opportunities like those you are having and others at places like the grocery store, walmart, the mall, the playground, etc., where these types of mathematical thinking come up and can be encouraged and built upon if a parent is thinking. I loved those moments with my own kids. Sadly, lately when I’ve personally seen these great opportunities come about to other shoppers with children in the store, they totally stifle the thinking and just tell the kids. It would have been easy for you to just tell Alexis something like “it’s not today” and leave it at that, but instead you let her have that precious learning time and time to put things together her own way and in her own mind – making those great blue dot connections as our beloved Van de Walle suggests!!
Keep telling the stories!! I love them! Maybe others will benefit and try to let their own children have meaningful everyday mathematical opportunities!!