Easter Sunday saw St Paul, Minnesota waking up to weather perfection. Sunshine, low seventies (Fahrenheit), cloudless sky. Truly amazing.

There was a loon on Lake Phalen!

This was the sort of April weather that brings Minnesotans out of their homes to rediscover their neighbors.

—

So it is with Griffin, Tabitha and me on this warm spring morning. We are enjoying the warm sunshine on our front steps when L (five year old girl), O (3 year old boy) and their mom come biking, biking and strolling (respectively) down the sidewalk.

L is on a neighborhood mission delivering handmade Easter greeting cards.

It turns out that she has also pocketed some goodies from her own Easter basket. While we chat, she pulls out a bag of Cadbury mini eggs. In case you are unfamiliar, these are the size of pebbles. They are chocolate inside with a crunchy candy shell. Like an oversized egg-shaped M&M. Each little bag contains about a dozen.

*So. Much. Candy.*

This is likely a small fraction of the candy L has consumed by the time she stops to chat.

Anyway, mom notices the bag as soon as it emerges from L’s pocket. (Side note—mom is *across the street! *Holy SuperMom powers!) She warns L not to eat any more of these; arguing that L has had enough candy for one morning.

**L** (5 years old): Please?

**Mom:** If you give everybody one, you can have one.

L proceeds to cheerfully open the package, hand one to Tabitha (who eagerly and gratefully receives it), one to Griffin and one to me.

I begin to think about what question to ask to get some math talk going.

But L is ahead of me.

After enjoying both her egg and a long thoughtful pause, she pokes her finger back into the bag. She begins to rummage around and asks:

**L**: Tabitha, do you want a second one?

## So what do we learn?

Children use math to their advantage.

L knew what mom meant. Mom had compromised on the candy, allowing her **one piece**. L knew that. And she knew that the process was repeatable.

One does not always mean one. One might be taken to mean *each*. “Each time you give everybody one, you can have one.” This is also a reasonable interpretation of mom’s words.

L was rule bending here. But she was also building the precursors of ratios. *For every one you give a friend, you can have one*. This is a ratio. *Giving a friend two and having two* fits this rule just as well as *giving a friend one and having one*. Ratios are one of the more challenging ideas behind multiplication and division relationships, and fractions.

What is maddening for parents is at the same time great thinking practice for children.

## Starting the conversation

This was a brilliant compromise strategy on mom’s part. I doubt that she intended to encourage L to think proportionally, but that doesn’t matter. More likely, she was trying to encourage the admirable social skill of sharing. By including numbers in her compromise, she opened the door for L to think.

As I have mentioned before, anytime your child wants to open a negotiation, there is an opportunity for math talk. Sometimes we parents need to give a flat out yes or no. But when negotiations are feasible, we can get our children thinking.