This morning, my daughter and I were doing a math lesson like we usually do. Today’s lesson was about word problems. You know, Suzy had three doughnuts, she ate two doughnuts, what was her LDL cholesterol after breakfast?
For today’s lesson, I read a word problem and then my daughter told me what to draw to represent what was happening in the story.
It took us a little while to get the hang of this.
“OK, Honey. Darleen went fishing with her sister,” I began, reading from my lesson guide. “She caught two fish in the morning. In the afternoon, she caught three fish.”
I went on to ask what happened in the story and what kind of story it was (in our math curriculum, this is a “some, some more” story). No trouble there.
“Let’s draw a picture of what happened in the story,” I said, dry-erase marker poised at the board. “What should I draw first?”
Without hesitation, my daughter answered, “First you draw the place where they’re fishing.”
“Oh, um,” I said, buying time with empty syllables. “Well, we’re just going to draw a simple drawing, just showing what happens with the some, some more problem in the story,” I explained.
“Oh, OK,” said my daughter.
“So, what should we draw first?”
“The girl and her sister. And their fishing poles.” I took a deep breath at this point and made a decision.
I drew a stick-figure with curly hair next to a smaller stick-figure with slightly shorter curly hair. I drew fishing poles in their hands with the lines hanging down into an elliptical pond.
“OK, now how many fish should I draw?” I asked, and then repeated the story again.
“Two fish,” she said.
Things proceeded well from there. Our drawings were a little more detailed than I think was intended, but we got the math concepts down.
Then it was her turn to make up and draw her own word problem.
“There were five girls,” she began, “No! There were ten girls who were all four feet tall. They went swimming in a pool that was ten feet deep.”
At this point she’d not drawn anything. I was wondering if she was going to have the girls stand on each others’ heads or something. Instead of intervening, I let her continue.
“Five of the girls were not good swimmers, and they drowned. The other girls were good swimmers, and they survived. There was a daddy who was six feet tall. He was underwater trying to save the girls who couldn’t swim well. He saved—no, he didn’t save any. He tried to, but all five of those girls who couldn’t swim died.”
And here is the picture she drew to accompany her story:
There’s that daddy, swimming underwater, just like she said. He’s breathing out air, just like we do on land, only it comes out in bubbles. When he gets to the surface, she explained, he will breathe in air.
Note that the doomed girls have sad faces, and the strong swimmers have smiley faces. I’m a little alarmed that the daddy is so happy, even though he failed at saving fully half of the girls in his charge.
Note, also, that she got the math problem right.
I can’t decide whether to be worried or not. But I’m thinking she might be ready for Neil Gaiman books now. And that we won’t be having a swim party for her sixth birthday.