“Hey, Kid. What’s the biggest  number you can think of?”

“Infinity.”

“Oh. What does infinity look like?”

“It’s a 1 with a hundred 0’s after it.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t think infinity is a number.”

“Huh?”

“It’s a concept.”

“It’s a number.”

“I disagree.”

“You are wrong, Mom.”

“Maybe. It happens. What do you want for breakfast?”

“English muffin. No, bagel. No, English muffin AND a bagel.”

“Let’s just start with the English muffin then see where things go.”

“Okay.”

(Mathematically…infinity is so enticing for little kids. It’s really really big (or really really small.) It’s challenging enough for adults to wrap their minds around it. Though 4-year-olds are capable of imagining unbelievable things, their world is very concrete. Hence my son’s need to anchor infinity to a series of digits. That’s okay. I corrected him appropriately but didn’t linger on it. Infinity is a crazy wonderful deep concept. So, every now and then, I bring it up. It would be amazing if this conversation had gone in crazy wonderful deep directions, but I am speaking to a 4-year-old. So I used breakfast as an escape hatch and kept it brief!  I continue to trust that his mind mulls things over in the spaces between our conversations. If you’d like an entree into talking about big numbers with your young child, I recommend the book How Many Jellybeans by Andrea Menoti and illustrated by Yancy Labat.)

Featured image Photo credit: azarius via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Jellybeans Photo credit: oatsy40 via VisualHunt.com / CC BY

2 thoughts on “A short conversation about infinity”

1. Dewa Rama says:

Do you have any good ideas for explaining infinity to first graders?

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