Griffin (eight years old) and Tabitha (five years old) were discussing the day’s activities. The feature activity had been making brownies with Mommy. This occurred while Griffin was out of the house.
Griffin: How many brownies did you make?
Tabitha: One big one! Mommy cut it up.
So What Do We Learn?
What makes this more than just a funny story is that Griffin and Tabitha are clearly counting different things. They are talking about different units.
When we make cookies, everyone agrees on the unit; we know what one cookie is.
But brownies are different. Tabitha seems to think that a brownie is the thing that comes out of the oven. Griffin seems to think that a brownie is what you eat in one serving.
I have emphasized elsewhere the importance of the unit; that one is a more flexible concept than we might think.
Fun follow-up question: Does the thing in this video count as one brownie?
Starting the Conversation
Anytime there are things in groups—or things being cut—is a good time to talk about units.
Grocery stores usually have express lanes where you have to have Ten items or fewer. Ask your child whether someone with a dozen eggs could use that lane. What about someone with 12 apples in a bag? What if the apples are loose?
When your child asks for two slices of pizza, take one slice, cut it down the middle, smile wryly and ask whether that’s OK.
In all of these cases, the central question is What counts as one? Play with that question.
Also, watch that video together. It’s a ton of fun.