Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Learning by Numbers
Yesterday my husband asked which our son
liked better, science or humanities
(what I knew as social studies).
"Both," he replied.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because there is a picture of a plant
cell on page 36 in the Science book,
and there is a list of the states on page
6 of the Humanities book," said my
I started to point out that teachers care
about what's in the book, not what page
it's on, but my husband spoke over me
to ask if it felt good to know what page
things are on in the book. He didn't answer.
It must feel good to him to know, because
he always does. Associating knowledge
with a number gives him some kind of
reference he needs, and I guess it doesn't
matter that page numbers change from
book to book. I guess he'll learn the new
If non-math has numbers, he learns it
easily. While other kids learn definitions
from context, he doesn't. But he's had
placemats of the presidents and
of the United States and he's memorized
the order of the presidents and when
all the states joined the union.
No one suggested he learn this, he just
did. He can even do "president math" and
"states math" adding and subtracting them
the way he used to do months and the
alphabet when he was four.
He can also tell you the date we started
and finished any book in the last four
I guess the takeaway is we shouldn't
fight the numbers. But I still find it hard
to work with them. They seem like a
distraction from the ever more complex
task of text comprehension.
What might work? And how does the
world add up for the child you want to