Another bedtime math conversation with the 4-year old:
“Good night, kid. I love you.”
“I love you.”
“Hmm, who do you think loves whom more?”
“I love you two.”
“I love you four.”
Pause. Pause. There appeared to be thinking going on. I was expecting a 6, but then…
“Mom. Why does 4 not come before 2?”
“Good question. I don’t know if I’ve ever considered it. Hmm. Why do YOU think it does not come before 2?”
But he was having none of my throwing the question back at him tonight.
“And why does 2 come before 3? And why does it come also before 5? And why does 6 come before 10?”
“Why do you think it does?”
“I don’t know.”
“But it’s a really great question. Mathematicians are always asking great questions like that. That’s one of the most important parts of being a mathematician. Keep doing it.”
He smiles and snuggles deeper under his covers.
Which makes me feel tired, so that’s where we ended that conversation.
(Mathematically…It was tempting to come up with a real explanation for why 2 comes before 4. Perhaps a conversation about greater than and less than. For a brief moment I considered how I might explain the Ruler Postulate from high school Geometry. Or picture a number line like he might see in kindergarten next year. But I’m glad that I didn’t do any of that. The most important part of this whole conversation was allowing that long pause before his question, and then not crowding out his thinking with my words. What the heck was happening in his brain in those quiet moments? Important things, no doubt.)