“Hey, Pam. The 5-year-old says you told him that there is no 15 when you count by 5’s.”

Huh? It was 7:00pm, and the kids were brushing their teeth before bed. This is a time when the most interesting conversations tend to pop up. My husband was assisting the 5-year-old when this one happened.

“Show her, kid. Count by 5’s.”

“Okay. 5, 10, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40.”

“See, Pam. No 15.”

“Mom, you told me that there is no 15.”

Fascinating. I mean, really, the things these kids come up with! In that moment, I just started doing a little dance and chanting FIVE! TEN! FIFTEEN! TWENTY! TWENTY-FIVE! THIRTY! (you know the rest, chant and dance along!) Then we shuffled that kid off to bed.

But upon further reflection…

I realized that the 5-year-old is not ready to accept the teen numbers as part of the fold. This is not surprising based on his thinking in Nighttime Math Talk #3. Just like our teen years themselves, the teen numbers are strange and awkward. In English, every other two-digit number follows a clear pattern (twenTY-FIVE, thirTY-FIVE, forTY-FIVE, etc.) whereas the teens have their own thing going on. Most of them end in “teen”, not in the name of their last digit. And 11 and 12? They don’t even follow the teen pattern! Rebels!

So, what to do? The kid keeps insisting on not including 15.

Let it go. Someday, he will have to relent. The steady roll of school and logic will eventually capture him. Until then, I am continually enchanted by his thought processes.

(Mathmetically…skip counting (or counting by 2’s, 5’s, etc.) will come with practice. It is certainly helpful to chant and sing sequences together or even find ways to use visuals (hands and feet for counting by 5’s, knobs on a dresser for counting by 2’s, for example), but don’t get too caught up in any mistakes your kid makes. Remember when they were learning to count 1, 2, 3? That wasn’t always the smoothest process, either!)

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Pam is a math teacher and a mom enjoying the moments in every day that get mathy and trying to make numeracy as normal as literacy.
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