Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Billion to the Fourth Power

I don't know why, but I tend to teach math in the car. Which sometimes is really tricky when I'd like to be using my hands to draw an example or write down a list of numbers, and instead I've got them on the wheel (as I should!). Some of my kids appreciate this habit of mine, as they love math so much, it doesn't matter where we are or how I'm presenting it. Others of my kids have a harder time without a visual aid. Nonetheless, I found myself last week in the car with five youngsters, ranging in age from five to eleven years old, and we talked about all kinds of fun math.

I had recently been introduced to this website and at night had been working on some of its featured math puzzles. A few days later, the kids (including a nephew and a neighbor) and I were in the car longer than we thought we'd be, since an attempted outing came to naught. I decided to mention the puzzles to them so they could try finding some solutions. This led quickly to discussions about the Fibonacci sequence (which the 5-year-old could explain to us!!), Pascal's triangle, exponents, and how to multiply quickly by elevens.

I loved it. I loved that math could be so normal that we'd be discussing it the way we discuss movies or stories. I loved that every single kid in the car was engaged and interested. I loved that repeated, early exposures of 'difficult' concepts ends up making them easier down the road. I loved that everyone was actually being challenged to think in new ways, including myself!

The five-year-old was so interested in exponents that he asked me what a billion to the fourth power is. (Kids love to 'challenge' adults by asking them questions involving really big numbers.) I told him that I could show him a really fast way of solving that, but that it would have to wait until we got home so I could write on paper! When we got home, I showed him the fast way to write one billion (using 10^9) and then showed him how multiplying that by itself four times is easy as well, by multiplying the nine times four. He didn't know 9x4 off the top of his head, but he knew 9x2 and could double it to make the right answer. Smart cookie!

I hope that math can become even more fun and everyday for my kids and other children in my life. And I hope that when they think of me, they think of fun puzzles and discussions -- not dry lessons!

1 comment:

Erin said...

Wow! What fun car conversations! Love how you challenge your kids' thinking...