Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Vision of Precision, Revised

Every day this week we've been playing with math dice. Enthusiastically.

I'm not going to name the company because not only do I not review or endorse any product on this blog for money or power (not that they asked) but it is also quite easy to go out to your local games shop and get your own set of two 12-sided and three 6-sided dice. (The rules are also pretty easy to figure out: multiply or add the two numbers on the 12-sided dice and then roll the six-sided dice and try to find a way to make the target number using as many operations as you know.)

Did I mention the enthusiasm?

My newly eight-year-old is enthusiastic about many things but has always been a little standoffish with her affinity for math, probably because, I think, she perceives it as my 'thing'. So, it's been nice to be able to truly enjoy a math game together.  (It's been a while -- we were heavy into UNO a couple years back which was super fun.)  It's clear my kid is on her way to a happy relationship with operations, but there's something even more interesting developing...

I had always thought my girl was not what I would call 'systematic' or 'precise'.  I know for sure she is prone to intuitive leaps of connection or understanding and lots of messy tinkering, none of it looking either precise or systematic to my eyes.

As I've been drafting and revising this post I've realized that maybe she has been those things, I just haven't been able to see it.  And, as we've been playing the dice game I've watched her systematically running through different combinations of the six-sided dice (by moving the dice physically to different positions) and  reasoning to herself out loud as she thinks through the different ways to use the hand she's rolled.

I guess I always thought that precision in mathematical problem solving looked, well, neat and orderly and on paper.

Anyhow, I am not (too) ashamed to admit that I was wrong. I think she's been precise and systematic in her own way for a while now. In retrospect, I realize I've heard this kind of  'talking herself through' a series of moves or ideas before. Systematically. In math and in many other contexts. For years. In a messy, verbal, highly enthusiastic way.

Okay, so I'm a slow learner I guess, but pretty open minded all the same. I think it's worth considering that there must be a difference in the way children and adults go about their reasoning. Or, at the very least, that I have a deeply ingrained image of 'what it looks like to do math'. I'm going to keep thinking about all this. If you have any observations or resources to share on this subject, I'd be tickled pink.

In the end, I'm super impressed that not only is she beating the pants off me but she has also created her own strategy for combining operations to reach a target number.  And it's all her.  The only thing I did was bring out the dice.

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