Boo likes math. She likes me to keep her amused in the car by asking her math questions, and I usually ask questions like, “What’s 10 plus 10 plus 10 plus 10 minus 5 plus 10 minus 5?” I’m always impressed when she throws out the answer practically the moment I’ve finished speaking. She keeps up. I’m guessing that means she’s pretty good at mental math. This is backed up by her teacher, who says complementary things about her when I see her in the hall.
So this weekend, the cousins are in town. J’s brother was playing Monopoly with Boo and mentioned that Boo seems pretty good at math. He says he’s heard being good at – hell, I don’t remember the term, because I’m not good at math – but it means doubling numbers repeatedly. So he asks Boo, who is in first grade, “What’s one doubled?” Boo says, “Two.” He says, “What’s two doubled?” and so on. I expected that 8 doubled would give her pause, but it did not. 16 doubled gave her pause. About two seconds of a pause. I don’t know how she knows that. 32 doubled took her about 3 seconds to figure out, maybe 4. At this point, jaws were dropping.
She got to 256, then blew doubling that and they moved back to the Monopoly game they were playing. That last one took her a few moments, while she walked back and forth and muttered to herself, but did not attempt to use her fingers at any point.
It seems to me that this is pretty cool, and I’d just love to know a way to help her keep this strength. I remember Maya spontaneously doing simple math in her head when she was 3 and 4 years old and being so delighted that it seemed to come easily to her. Then she had a hell of a time with her times tables and by grade 6 she was blowing every test and announcing she hated math and would quit as soon as possible. She now has a tutor and regularly pulls in marks of over 90% on her tests. But the moment you throw her a new concept, she’s back at ground zero, pronouncing math impossible and she still says she’s bad at it and hates it. Thank goodness she has a great tutor who makes everything easy for her and I’m hoping that after enough time, her confidence will be built back to the point where she will be able to tackle new concepts and problem-solve.
Asher’s pretty good at it and, remarkably, has full confidence that he’s good at it. In fact, he just utterly tanked a test and was completely unconcerned, explaining that the problem was that he just didn’t understand the questions (well, duh!). He still likes math. (Doesn’t like reading, though. My kids are walking stereotypes.)
Why why why is it that girls lose it and boys don’t? And how can we stop it from happening again? I’m thinking our best hope is that math just comes so easily to Boo that she never questions her ability to do it.
I’ll let you know how it goes.