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My kid just started doing arithmetic with negative numbers, no one has ever taught her anything about them

My daughter is pretty excited about math right now.

She begs for us to give her math problems, I have heard doing sums out loud sometimes after she goes to bed. I heard her add 2 plus 2 = 4 plus 4 = 8....up to 2048 the other night (wtf how do I get the plus sign to show up). Pretty swell for a 7 year old.

I try not to do a bunch of raw calculation with her and instead focus on ideas, patterns, graphs and math language. What time is it if it's a quarter to 4 or half past 2. Isn't it queer that the clock has 60 min and a quarter of an hour is 15 minutes while a dollar is 100 pennies and a quarter is 25 cents? I run out of ideas and am damn tired of it sometimes but it's fun to see her wrestle with stuff and get excited.

I've mentioned negative numbers and maybe she's seen some in a graph and what not. She's never had any on her homework (her home work is addition and subtraction with some sneaky multiplication mixed in). I can' say that I've never taught her anything about them.

She had a sheet with a number line and some addition subtraction problems that she had written out that had a bunch of problems with negative numbers on it. I asked her where she learned to use negative numbers.

"Let me show you she said," and proceeded to draw a number line which was opposite the typical orientation 3 2 1 0 ? (with an X through it) -1 -2 -3. "I was thinking," and she writes on the paper "We can not start at the end! Thar is a infinaty of nubers. (Spelling is her own). And from there she just up and started to manipulate simple math over the conceptual chasam that is 0.

Fucking blew my mind...

I don't think she's a math genius or anything but she's clever at it and has a natural inclination to engage in challenging ideas. I'm impressed and surprised. I hope she doesn't rederive the fundamental theory of calc at 14 or something, it be a daunting responsibility to keep her stimulated. She's an average math student in class but I suspect that is mostly her being inattentive at raw calculation. I don't think with 31 kids in the 2nd grade class the teacher has a lot of time to gauge how well any given student can grasp big ideas, she just sees how many little sloppy mistakes my kid makes and my my child rushes everything and is sloppy as hell with details.

We have started working on fractions and decimals with Legos and cut up pieces of Halloween candy. She's picking up on them pretty quickly.

nowaypablo  ·  563 days ago  ·  link  ·

do everything in your power to keep her challenged and dont let her get bored. this is an awesome story, thanks for sharing.

katakowsj  ·  544 days ago  ·  link  ·

That, and more importantly, from my perspective as a teacher, always find a way to stay engaged and interested. Find your challenge daily. The world will and cannot bend to your will alone. Everyone you meet knows something you don't.

If you know what everyone else doesn't seize the opportunity to teach the unknown. Challenge yourself to be able to communicate and use what you know. Otherwise it's just trivia.

flagamuffin  ·  562 days ago  ·  link  ·

i don't think seven year olds normally know the word infinity!

cgod  ·  562 days ago  ·  link  ·

Her language skills are significantly better than her math skills. She lives in a house filled with books, we read to her most nights and her grandma was a reading teacher for twenty years before she retired and got a library science degree and did that for twenty years.

My wife read something like 200 books last year. She is a prolific enough reviewer that she gets a few pre-release books from authors and publishers every month. Most the stuff she reads is niche genera romance pulp but the quantity is impressive.

I knew about infinity at her age. I learned about it in a religious context, that God always existed and that he will always existed, he was infinite. It fucked up my little brain bad. I asked everyone in my family and my pastors how, if God had always existed, did we reach the time that he created us. I suppose the question was how do you reach a point on an infinite line of time.

Everyone gave me different answer, and some of the answers were just straight bullshit (the sort which any half aware 6 or 7 year old can smell). I completely lost any interest in religion aside from reading my cartoon illustrated three volume Bible story set (the stories we're still cool).

We've never baby talked her. We try not to answer her questions with " you'll understand when you're older." Which kinda sucks when it's a question that you don't want to or have the time to answer because she doesn't accept that she doesn't need to know something and pushes back. Questions like "why do the police kill black people?" Are big questions that don't have easy answers. Kids are always listening, be it to us talking or to the news or a podcast I have playing in the kitchen while I'm making dinner. I knew that Yasser Arafat was the head of the PLO in 2nd grade from my Dad's diet of News Hour, I thought his headdress was fantastic.

I guess I'm in verbose mode this Sunday morning so I'll toss out a fucking hilarious example. Her and the wife were watching Jumanji together. I haven't seen it but here is the gist. There is a scene where something titillating happens. All the characters look at The Rocks shorts and their eyes get big. They don't show his shorts but any adult gets the joke and kids the pass right by it, quick sight gag. So they are watching this scene and Hazel yells "wait, go back! I don't understand that joke!" My wife tries to tell her not to sweat it but she is insistent that she need to understand what happened. They rewind, she doesn't get it and insists that my wife explain the joke. My wife tells her "when a man becomes sexually aroused his penis gets bigger, it's called an erection." "Oh, that is funny." They finish the movie.

The next day, in Home Depot, surrounded by a bunch of strangers, she says, "yesterday, in the movie, when he got an erection, that was so funny." People give my wife and daughter the side eye and my wife just shakes her head.

I think everyone on my fathers side of the family likes to have fun with the language, it's probably learned and hereditary.

edricarica  ·  563 days ago  ·  link  ·

I was this girl! I LOVED math (except I called it "maths" because UK) all through elementary school, right up until the age of 14 where suddenly only boys were supposed to be good at STEM and girls (especially the cool girls, who were the ones who got dates and I desperately wanted to be included in) were good at Literature. So guess what? I got good at literature. And went on to do Social Sciences. And it was boring and I was fascinated by theoretical physics and molecular biology but by that time I'd missed out on the math I needed to study these subjects at a high level.

I think the world has changed now. But I'd love for this little girl to keep her options open as long as she can :)

chev-posts  ·  528 days ago  ·  link  ·

is that where "maths" originated from? I taught in an international school and a couple students kept saying "maths" and when I tried to correct them they said that was how everyone said it in their previous school.

goobster  ·  499 days ago  ·  link  ·

"Math" is a classification.

"Maths" is a broad range of subjects. (Calculus, Algebra, etc.)

Example: Cheese is a classification. Cheeses are many things.

bhrgunatha  ·  563 days ago  ·  link  ·

wtf how do I get the plus sign to show up

Escape it with a \ character so \+ becomes +

hubnoyes  ·  553 days ago  ·  link  ·

Why does it not show the plus sign normally? +

bhrgunatha  ·  553 days ago  ·  link  ·

It's because comments support formatting of text- like bold and italic. To do that you surround the text you want to format as bold text with + signs e.g. +"to make a quote stand out"+ becomes "to make a quote stand out".

To use the actual plus sign you need some way to tell the formatter that this particular plus sign should not be used to show bold text but instead is the actual real plus sign. You do that by putting a \ character directly in from of the plus sign as I showed above.

This is quite common in text processing with computers - in particular for programming languages - because some characters are reserved for special purposes. So common they have a name for it and it's called escaping the character.

mk  ·  563 days ago  ·  link  ·

That’s awesome. It’s such a pleasure to see your kid’s mind tackle new ground. I was doing some math with my daughter the other day and considered asking her something like what’s 2 - 3? Maybe I’ll give it a shot.

We cannot start at the end!

klintonyards  ·  470 days ago  ·  link  ·

you just earned some serious bragging rights

9digitz  ·  476 days ago  ·  link  ·

When my kids were around that age I found a great website called www.bedtimemath.org. They couldn't get enough. You should check it out.

user-inactivated  ·  486 days ago  ·  link  ·
This comment has been deleted.
the_sumatran_man  ·  498 days ago  ·  link  ·

try to introduce her to basic programming

unperson  ·  499 days ago  ·  link  ·

Point her at the maths lessons available at www.khanacademy.org - she will be dynamite by the time she's done there!

cgod  ·  499 days ago  ·  link  ·

She's done a bit of Khan Academy math.

katakowsj  ·  545 days ago  ·  link  ·

That sounds great. I’m an 8th grade math teacher and my 8 year old daughter and my 10 year old son and I have a lot of fun playing with math. Usually, we’ll talk about it in car, or at the table during meals.

From my 21 years teaching, I can say that playing and talking and making mistakes and learning from those mistakes is the most valuable experience that any kid can have at home. You could go the ultimate and find out what topics are being examined at school and then explore and expand on them at home. Doing that, you’ll set your daughter in a very successful spot.

It’s what works in my house.

“Math is patterns and puzzles. Patterns and puzzles that we use to make things happen in the world. “ is my general theme. In my experience, kids that come in to school unafraid of numbers and can make mistakes and be cool with it, knowing that mistakes must happen to learn math, are the most successful and happiest math students I see.

Clariti  ·  545 days ago  ·  link  ·

Oh wow. Thank you for sharing this.

idavidi  ·  551 days ago  ·  link  ·

Modern World Kids are both genius and nuisance. Make sure you keep her challenged with different things to interest her with related things.

leemyjoy  ·  557 days ago  ·  link  ·

smart kids

goobster  ·  561 days ago  ·  link  ·

How fascinating. Must be amazing watching her mind develop!

I was an early reader. I was also an early riser. My parents told me to read a book, and not wake them up. So I did. Prolifically.

We had all kinds of books in the house, from encyclopedias to sci fi to "kids" books, to classics.

I have no idea why I picked up one book over another, and don't actually remember what I read when I was a kid (other than "Are you my mother?" and Shel Silverstein), but the important thing is that I read.

When I got to school, I was far more prepared for English than my peers. I rocketed to the top of the class, and was in advanced english courses before I left junior high school.

Today, I make an excellent living as a writer/communicator.

===

So here is my totally unskilled suggestion: Provide the widest range of reading material possible. Let her mind drive what she picks up when her mind is ready for more. I don't know that guiding her consumption 100% is the best way to go... serendipity has to have a place.

I never read "at my level." I was always capable of reading and understanding books that were far beyond my supposed-level.

Give her range. That's my suggestion.

cgod  ·  561 days ago  ·  link  ·

I was a struggling reader until the 3rd grade.

All of a sudden it clicked and my abilities exploded. I went from reading toad and frog to Lord of the Rings in a year.

I read every book in my 3rd grade classroom and moved on to the school library.

I pledged to myself that I'll buy her any book she asks for. My mom looked down on some of the sci-fi fantasy stuff I wanted as a kid, things that I was burning to read, I don't think it would have done me any harm.

I've tried to keep some odd ball stuff she doesn't know she wants to read around, stuff that delighted me as a kid. Greek mythology, illustrated atlas's, Cool kids science books and what not. I don't think it's easy to guide a kids interest but dangling stuff in front of them and seeing what they bite at seems to be working.