Jet has been able to count to twelve for quite some time. I thought she had a good grip on the teen numbers as well — until my daughter asked me to work with her on them this week.
Jet arrived in a good mood Monday morning with Panda in tow. “Panda came today because he hasn’t been here in a long time. You can hold him, but he might cry because he hasn’t seen you in awhile and he might not be used to you.”
I picked up Panda and patted his diapered bottom. “I think he’s okay. Maybe he remembers me after all.”
“No you’d better let me hold him for awhile, just to be sure.”
I surrendered Panda to Jet’s arms. “Say, Jet, could you count for me?”
Jet was happy to oblige, “One, two….” Everything was fine until she got to 14 and jumped immediately to 18.
We counted all morning but Jet’s mental glitch was consistent and impenetrable. She didn’t recognize the cadence in her head. Chanting and singing and repetition didn’t seem to help. Trying a new tactic, I slowly wrote out the numbers for her as a visual aid. Jet took to the list like a duck to water, but 11, 12, 13 and 15 don’t sound like they look. Jet was familiar with written numbers through 10. If only we counted forward as ten-1, ten-2, ten-3 or 1-teen, 2-teen, 3-teen! On the other hand, seeing numbers she recognized as parts of 16 through 19 helped her say them in order, but only when her eyes were glued to the paper.
I remembered how Jet’s mother had trouble with arithmetic memorization until she began to understand the underlying concepts. No amount of singing and chanting had helped. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I pulled forth a memory of my dad using coins to help me understand number notations, so I pulled out our store of loose change.
“This is a penny. One penny. If you have 10 pennies it is the same as this dime.” Jet arranged ten pennies in a straight row under the dime. “We can count these pennies 1 though 10.” We counted the pennies. “Now if we add more pennies, we can count those too.” We added three more pennies and counted to thirteen. “It takes a longer time to count 13 pennies, doesn’t it? But what if we replace these 10 pennies with the dime. Now we can count faster. We know that that this dime means 10, so we can start with 10.” We counted to 13 again, starting with 10. “Look at the list. See how the number 10 is a 1 and a zero?” Jet nodded. “It’s the same as the dime! Do you see? And look! Look the number 13. It is the same as one dime and 3 pennies!”
“I have moneys in my piggy bank, Grandma!”
“I know you do! Should we look at some more kinds of money?” Jet was enthusiastic so we took a detour into nickels, quarters and dollar bills. “If you can learn to count to 25 this week, you can take this money home.”
“Well I thought you might like to put in in your piggy bank.”
“Um… do you know that people use money to buy things?
“My mommy uses a card.”
“Well, yes, mommy’s card is a different way to spend money… but just like the dime, it’s still the same thing.”
“I could use my money to buy new clothes for Kitty!”
“Yes, you could save your money to buy things you want or need! You would need a lot of pennies to buy clothes for Kitty.” I counted out 100 pennies and Jet arranged them in rows of 10. “This is the same as one dollar. Which would you rather have, one dollar or one nickel?” To my delight Jet immediately grasped the relative values and correctly selected the dollar over the nickel and the quarter over 10 pennies.
The next day we added beads and flashcards to the mix and by the end of the day, Papa was able to make a video of Jet correctly counting to 19 with the aid of the cards. Jet may not understand why her grandparents are so gosh darn excited about counting, but she is enjoyed making us happy. Maybe next week she can take home 25 cents!