Math has never been my thing! I have never been interested in it, liked it, or considered myself very good at it. I could write volumes on what I did just to “get by” in High School and even those tactics didn’t work all that well. I just concluded I wasn’t good in math and this was a label I gave myself-bad at math, math challenged, etc.
Fast forward, well, many years. Recently, my 5 year old son brought home a math worksheet. He handed it to me and said, “I want to show you how I do my math, mommy.” He proceeded to go to the kitchen drawer and count out 20 spoons. We then sat down on the floor together. I looked down at the sheet and called out “15 divided by 3.”
15 divided by 3? Had I really just said that to my 5 year old? My son, in kindergarten, doing division? I couldn’t believe my eyes and even flipped the paper over to see if I had missed the easier addition exercises.
“Okay,” he said, “15 divided by 3.” And thought nothing of it. I watched. He then proceeded to count out 15 of the 20 spoons and lay them on the floor. “Divided by 3?” he confirmed. “Yes,” I said.
He then created 3 columns of spoons. Under each column he put the remaining spoons equally until he had 3 columns and 5 rows. He counted the rows. “15 divided by 3 is 5” he declared proudly with a huge smile on his face. “That was fun – let’s do another one!” Math fun? I have never held that point of view. Math hard, or math impossible-those were phrases I was familiar with. I referred to math as what it is – a problem- a math PROBLEM.
My son completed all division questions on the paper and then asked me to make up some more. We did this for 30 minutes and…we had fun!
I came away fascinated and reflected on the notion that what is considered a problem for some, is perceived as fun and an opportunity or challenge, by others. My son is not being taught math “problems” or an obstacle too difficult to think through, he is being taught math as a challenge, a question, an opportunity for solution, for which there is an answer. He has the faith and confidence that the answer can come from within. With one answer came excitement and pride and a direction -on to bigger questions, more answers, more confidence and new opportunities.