Math Talk on the Way to School

This morning there was a lull in the minutes before we walked out the door to head to school. With a 9-year-old and 6-year-old, it’s rare to have any kind of lull, so I took advantage of it.

“Hey guys, how can you make 3?”

The 6-year-old lifted his pointer finger and drew the numerical symbol “3” in the air.

Ha. Ha. Ha. I thought he was being funny. But he wasn’t…he was answering the question he heard me ask. Fair enough.

“Okay, that works. Now your turn,” I said to the 9-year-old.

The 9-year-old told me that 3 divided by 1 would make 3. Yup. I looked back at the 6-year-old and told him it was his turn again. Find another way to make 3. And put your lunch in your school bag.

“10 minus 7.”  Nice. Good thinking. Back to the 9-year-old…

“1 plus 2, of course.” Yes. Of course. But it’s worth saying, and it’s a valid answer.  Back to the 6-year-old…

“100  minus 97!!” Ooh. That’s cool. Next…

“21 divided by 7.” Yes. Next…

“Um. 10 minus 5 minus 2.” Oh, that’s interesting. Next…

“1 times 3.” Yes…and how about one and a half plus one and a half? Or 1 divided by 1/3? “Mom! Those are fractions!!” Yes, fractions are fair game. So are negative numbers. How about -1 plus 4? “Oh yeah. How about -4 plus 7?” Nice.

Between the two boys, they rallied their answers back and forth. The game continued until the 9-year-old waved good-bye and ran into school. (Okay, truth…he didn’t wave good-bye. He rarely does. But he did run. It may have had something to do with the “I love you” songs I sang loudly after him…)

(Mathematically…My asking a math fact question that had many answers required the boys to practice their mathematical fluency and flexibility. Both boys were able to fully participate and to answer the question in ways that were appropriate to their level of understanding. Additionally, the 6-year-old’s understanding was stretched as he listened to his older brother’s responses, and the 9-year-old’s understanding was stretched as he reached for interesting answers and made sense of my answers. An additional benefit is that they weren’t poking at each other on the trip to school because they were focused on something else. Whew.)

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