In an earlier episode…the 5-year-old told his father that I had said there was no 15 when skip-counting by 5’s. I laughed and let it go, figuring this would be a self-correcting issue. And it was! Here’s how it happened…

The 5-year-old has a 7-month-old cousin. He loves her. He holds her. He snuggles her. He plays with her. He thinks about her a lot.

“Mom. When Baby Cousin is 5, I will be 10.”

“Yup.”

“And when Baby Cousin is 10, I will be 15.”

“Yup.”

“And when I am 20, she will be 15.”

“Yup.”

Wait. Hold the phone, people!! That’s when I realized that HE DID IT. He found his 15 while counting by 5’s! This momentous occasion could have easily passed me by, but since I am always on the look-out for a good mathy moment, I noticed. The kid found his 15 because it mattered in the context of something he really cared about. And probably also because whatever he has been doing at school and whatever has been going on in his brain connected up to let that 15 in.

So, did I jump up and down with excitement and point out this achievement to him?

Nope. But I did smile.

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After I wrote the above, I thought I’d actually check in with the 5-year-old on skip-counting by 5’s. We were both awake early and he was sitting in my lap when I asked him directly if he knew how to skip count by 5’s. He looked at me and smiled.

“5, 10…20, 30, 40, 50!!”

Uh-oh.

Then he smiled slyly and said, “Just kidding.” He started over…

“5, 10…,” then he scrunched his face a little bit and asked,”Mom, what comes next?”

I asked him how old he would be when Baby Cousin is 10. He said 5. I shook my head. I counted on from 10 to 15, stopped, and simply said “it’s 15.” And then we snuggled and talked about going ice skating later.

(Mathematically…the 5-year-old will be fine. Rather than worrying about whether he really understands this particular number pattern, I am making sure that he continues to enjoy playing with numbers. We are setting the foundation for confident mathematical exploration and curiosity. And let’s face it, he is no doubt still parsing our unusual way of naming the teen numbers.)