Monday, January 14, 2013

A small measure of fun

On each of the last two days, Suhana and I played an ad-hoc game using a small dry-erase board, some markers, and a standard die. We wrote the numbers 1 through 6 along the left edge and each roll was recorded with a dot in the appropriate row. Nothing fancy. There was no target concept to be taught — just plain frolic and pointless activity of the sort Suhana enjoys.

Despite the non-targetedness (or should I say “because of the non-targetedness?”) plenty of opportunities showed up to show Suhana some very tiny bit of math.

  • At one point on the first day, the distribution of the numbers was nearly even — each of the six numbers had four or five dots. And we talked and wondered about it.
  • A bit later, naturally, it was much more uneven. And we talked and wondered about that.
  • Midway through, it was decreed that the number that reaches 13 dots would be the winner. I drew a vertical line to indicate “5 dots” and a second vertical line for “10 dots”. At one point, Suhana counted the number of dots in front of 4 — 8 dots. I then showed her how the vertical line speeded things up — we already know that there are five dots to its left, and it is easy to count up from there. Her face lit up, and she used this strategy several times.
  • Today, Suhana insisted on playing the game again. She set up the board, and I was surprised that she drew the two vertical lines and labeled them “5” and “10”. Relaxed playing turns up opportunities to demonstrate “best practices”.
  • Today, “Suhana’s number” — she is crazily in love with 4 because it is her age — was not winning. “2” had 11 dots, whereas “4” merely had 9. Suhana was in tears. A toy horse with a twisted torso happened to be lying around, and I tried to show her the concept of a “loaded horse” by repeatedly tossing it and showing that the same side tended to be on top. Although the point was entirely lost on her, her crying stopped.
  • I confess that I then cheated and made 4 win.
  • Along the way, I set up a puzzle. I hid two dice and told her that their top faces had a combined total of 7 dots and that one of them had 3 dots. How many dots were face up on the other? She could not figure this out and was getting frustrated at her inability and at this intrusion.
  • One of these days, I will set up an analogous 2-dice game where the sum is noted after each role. The puzzle should turn out to be a lot easier in that context. Plus, if Suhana warms up to that game, she will get plenty of practice of small number addition. The relative rarity of 2 and 12 and the many ways of reaching 7 can perhaps be seen. I should get dice of two different colors.
To summarize, we had a great time!

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