# A few quick conversations

Sometimes we just have very short conversations that are worth sharing here, but not worth their own full posts. Here are three such conversations…

## In the middle

The main television in our house is in the parents’ bedroom. As a result, 99% of the kids’ TV watching takes place on our bed. The other day, Rachel (my wife) was lying on the bed using the remote to start an episode of The Brady Bunch (the kids’ latest obsession). Griffin was already on the bed. Tabitha entered the room. I was standing up at my dresser, folding clothes.

Tabitha (6 years old): I want to be in the middle!

Rachel: Don’t worry, I am about to get off the bed.

T: But then there will be no middle.

Rachel had misinterpreted Tabitha’s desire to be in the middle as a desire to be in the middle of the bed when in fact she wanted to be the middle person.

T: There is no middle with just 2.

Me: But with 3 there is?

T: Yes.

Me: What are some other numbers that don’t have a middle?

T: Four doesn’t….Five does…Six.

Me: Is there a middle with 0 people?

T: No!

And here, dear readers, I do not have notes about her answer. It was a few weeks back. I invite speculation in the comments, and I will ask her again about whether 1 has a middle.

Tabitha has homework this year; both reading and math. The math has been awfully simplistic given her present knowledge. Counting small numbers of cows in a picture, filling in numbers on a hundreds chart, that sort of thing.

She has declared that it is too easy.

Me: When you do math in school, is it different from this or a lot like what you have for homework?

Tabitha: It’s the same mostly.

Me: How do you feel about that?

T: OK.

Me: Which makes you think harder, school math or daddy math talks?

## Related

Perhaps it was the same evening, perhaps a different one recently, Tabitha wrote the wrong number for the number of cows in the picture. She caught her error and expressed frustration at needing to erase.

In a desperate attempt to bring something new to this task, I told her not to be frustrated.

Me: One of my favorite things to do in class is to fix a number on the board without erasing. My very favorite example is turning a 2 into a 3.

I demonstrate. Tabitha is eager to try.

Me: Also, a 5 can become an 8 quite easily. And 7s are easy to turn into 9s.

She has a fine time practicing and dreaming up new number-fixing techniques.

A week or so later, she is filling out a hundreds grid and becomes very excited to do the 80s row. Each and every 8 begins as a 5 and is corrected. She is very pleased with herself.

## 6 thoughts on “A few quick conversations”

1. Maya says:

My first thought is that the middle of one would be a hug, but my guess is she didn’t say that or you would have remembered. 🙂

2. Talk is so important. Everyday situations create all kinds of maths discussions. Glad I have stumbled upon your blog!

3. Michael Paul Goldenberg says:

So does 1 have a middle? Seems to me that this one can go either way and it really would be fascinating to see what she says and why, if she is willing and able to explain.

My take: we call the middle, “the position (in a row? a column? of objects (that has an equal number of objects on each side (left and right; top and bottom). That’s in two dimensions. We could restrict this to dots on a line and have only one dimension, but in the example of the bed, it’s basically two-dimensional). So does one have a middle? Well, one is its own middle because it has an equal number of objects on each side of it, namely zero.

But if you see zero objects as illegitimate for this purpose (you can’t SEE zero objects, might be an objection), a child could readily say, “No” and might do so anyway, without any explicit definition.

Is Tabitha likely to give some sort of definition to justify her answer?

This is definitely exciting. I’m eager to hear how it turns out.

4. terri says:

Of course one has a middle…it’s ones belly button.

5. I love the number correcting and I’m going to try that with my boys, who get very cross when they make mistakes! Thank you.

6. Fun chat with my 4 year old (aka Little Dardy) – she is practicing for a performance that is happening a week from this Friday. She has been insistent lately that her performance is on a Tuesday. I keep correcting her – rather than asking her why (my big mistake) – and she has been adamant. Yesterday, I figured out why. The date of the performance is Nov 22. She told me that she KNOWS it is on a Tuesday since she saw a 2 on the sign in her classroom.

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