# 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!

# Two Cats and Two Tortoise

Yesterday my wonderful co-workers threw us an adoption shower, and thanks to them our daughter is an even richer girl if you measure wealth in books.

One of the gifts was from Mary Beth. She said it’s a favorite thing to do with a favorite counting book, Rooster’s Off to See the World by Eric Carle.

Included with the book was a baggie that contained a small rectangular board and a bunch of small cards with animal pictures. My daughter pulled out the baggie and asked, “What’s this?” I said it was something we could look at while we read the book. My daughter didn’t want to wait to read the book, so this morning while I made breakfast, she plopped down on the kitchen floor to explore the baggie of cards on her own.

Within a few minutes I heard her say, “There’s two cats and two tortoise!” I looked over to see that she had filled her card with animal pictures. And sure enough, the card had two pictures of cats and two pictures of tortoises (or turtles, I’m not sure which yet). I like that all of the counting we do throughout our day has led her to notice and count things on her own without any prompting from me.

After she was sure I had seen the pictures, she cleared off the card and said, “I want to do more.” She put all the cards back in the baggie and started filling the rectangular board again. One thing that was really interesting to me was how she naturally made two rows of three pictures on her card.

When she finished filling the board up a second time I asked, “What do you notice?” I was curious if she would count again or if she would tell me something different. Her response was, “One chicken, one cat, and two fish.” A few seconds later she exclaimed, “And two frogs!”

Then she cleared the board again and started filling it with new animal cards. This time she chose only cards with fish on them. Her observation at this point was, “There’s a lot of fish on here!”

She started digging through the baggie for a few seconds before saying, “I need one more fish.” We haven’t really talked about “one more” very much so it was so interesting to hear her say that. Since she kept laying out the cards in the same arrangement, I’m assuming she could tell there was room for just one more card.

Picking randomly from the baggie wasn’t working so she pulled all the cards out and spread them out on the floor. She couldn’t find a fish so she changed the activity. She asked me, “Where’s the tortoise? Touch it.”

I dutifully touched the tortoise, and that was the end of the activity. She put all the cards back in the baggie and moved on to looking at another one of the books she received yesterday.

The one thing that came to mind as I watched all this unfold was Christopher Danielson’s message: Let the children play:

We adults have a responsibility to let the children play. We can be there to listen to their ideas as they do. We can play in parallel by getting our own egg cartons out and filling these cartons with our own ideas.

But when we tell kids to “make a pattern” or “use the colors”, we are asking the children to fill that carton with our ideas, rather than allowing them to explore their own.

I could easily have overtaken the activity by asking questions such as:

• How many tortoises are on the board?
• Are there more cats or fish in the baggie?
• How many animal cards are not on the board?

All of these are great math questions, but they’re MY great questions, not my daughter’s. I want her to develop her own questions and curiosities to explore. In the end, it was much more fascinating and rewarding for me to see the ways she came up with to explore the cards and to share the things she noticed about them.

Thank you, Mary Beth, for the wonderful gift!