Math From Living

From Growing Without Schooling #23

Nancy Plent wrote in the New Jersey Unschoolers Network: I hate fiddling with little pieces of paper. But like everyone else, I keep coming across refund slips for things that I buy. It seemed too bad to throw away the money they represented. So I offered my 9-year-old half of the money if he would take care of the whole process: get the necessary box tops or whatever together, fill out the slips, address the envelope, stamp and mail it. I supply the envelopes and stamps. Whatever refund slips I find, I put in his mailbox, which he checks now and then. When the checks arrive, they’re made out to him, so he has to endorse them, cash them, and figure out his share. He can do this almost instantly now; financial motivation seems to be the best way to teach math!

And Nancy Wallace (NH) wrote: Vita (6) likes “pretty things”—laces, silks, jewellery, etc. One thing she does is to pore over catalogues we get in the mail, and one, the Sturbridge Village catalogue, really seems to have struck her fancy because it is so full of knick-knacks. She has learned to take the letters shown on the pictures, find them on the printed part of the page and then check out the prices of the stuff she likes. What she really loves are the china dolls with price tags like $325.75, $295.99, and so on, and Vila has learned how to read those monstrous figures accurately. She’s also learned that they represent too much money!

In the morning she runs into an interesting problem—too many nice Dresses! (Thanks to her grandmother.) So she has devised a logical method for figuring out what to wear. If she has a choice of four dresses, she divides them into two piles—one representing “heads” and one “tails”—and then flips a coin. She takes the winning pile and flips again. With six dresses it becomes more difficult, but she manages that too.

Our checks fascinate Vita. I always give her our old checks to play store with and she often keeps a stack of them on her little desk in the living room. Three or four times now she’s asked me to explain how checks work—how they can represent money. And she wants to know where our money is, and if the bank gives us the same money, we put in, and soon. She arrives to watch me attempt to balance the check book. But mostly she likes the physical sensation of holding a bundle of checks in her hands. It is a very grown-up feeling.