Friday, November 4, 2011

No Need for "Practice"

Of all meditational cleaning, dish washing may be the most effective. Somehow the calm flow of the warm water helps my thoughts to surface and come cleaner. Today it helped two formerly unrelated thoughts connect and become stronger.

1. Children should not be given "practice" plastic cups and plates before they are trusted with glass ones. (This is a Montessori idea.)

2. Children should not be taught to master addition and subtraction without regrouping before they are allowed to move on to addition and subtraction with regrouping. (My university math methods teacher taught this idea.)

Upon meditation, this is the same principle applied to different areas of life, and it comes down to trusting that our children can handle bigger ideas and concepts. The things we trust our children with do not need to be broken down into smaller steps. If we tell our children that we are trusting them with something, they will live up to our expectations. Sure, a child may break a plate or regroup incorrectly at first, but helping them clean up their mess and letting them grow through experience is easier in the long run than babying them and expecting constant growth.

Teaching simple addition connects certain synapses in children's brains that tell them what math is like. When we teach regrouping as a separate lesson, it tells the student, "Remember how you thought math was easy? Well, it's not really. There's actually a whole other step that you have to do now." They see it as an entirely different (and more complex) process. Contrariwise, if regrouping is taught first, not only is the base ten system emphasized (because children, especially English-speaking children, need all of the help with base ten they can get. More on that later), but simple addition seems even easier.

Similarly, if we hand toddlers a plastic cup (usually in the form of a sippy cup, in most societies today), it connects synapses that tell the child the properties of a plastic cup--it's light-weight, liquid stays in if I tip it over, it doesn't break when I drop it, liquid only comes out at this specific point, etc. Then it doesn't make sense in a child's mind that her father's cup has different properties, and he's upset when she breaks it. However, if we give the same toddler a miniature glass cup to begin with (I've seem shot glasses used for this purpose), she learns an entirely different set of mental rules about the properties of glasses and any glass thereupon requires no other handling consideration. Yes, the first one will be broken. Yes, a few others may be broken in the next couple of years. But that only emphasizes the properties of dishes.

Rather than giving children "practice" cups and plates when they are small, cut out the middle man and give them smaller sized glasses.

Rather than teaching children "practice" addition, cut out the middle man and teach regrouping first.

Rather than babying children with a modified version of life, let them experience reality.