How does one go about teaching math to a 4-year old? Last week, when asked “There were five birds in a tree and three flew away. How many are now present?”, Suhana gave the understandable answer “8”. How can this tendency to do things mechanically be countered? I have too often seen such jumping-to-conclusions in adults — “I think we should add those probabilities, or I think I should just take the product of probabilities” and I have seen similar guesswork from programmers with impressive resumes working on algorithmic problems during job interviews, and doubtless I have blundered similarly on countless occasions. Being able to see things clearly and having the patience and discipline to not “solve-problems-by-coincidence”, is I think a necessity for deeply understanding math. How does one teach carefulness?
I haven’t have a clue, but figured that now was a good time to start teaching Suhana and to see what works. I anticipate an exhilarating ride and I am unsure if that anticipation of exhilaration bodes well or bodes ill for this endeavor. I plan to document as I go along. The depth of my ignorance of teaching has started to show in my early attempts, as I will cover in the next post.
My partner-in-crime is my wife Shweta, an Assistant Professor of Math Education at Kean University. She has been watching my early forays with bemusement, and has started giving me literature from the field — empirical studies and multi-decade field work from the trenches. This, too, I shall talk about in the next post.