Here is a lovely math exchange shared by my sister, Shannon, and my almost three-year-old nephew Cal.
Mom: [gives Cal a plate with one biscuit]
Cal: I want more biscuits! I want two!
Mom: You may have one biscuit.
Cal: I don’t want one! I want two!
Mom: You may have one. If you don’t want one, you don’t have to eat any. That would be zero.
Cal: I want two!
Mom: You may have zero or one.
Cal: I want zero!
Mom: [walks away with plate]
Cal: I want zero and one. I want zero with my one.
Mom: Okay, here is your one. [sets plate back on table]
Cal: [finishes eating biscuit] I want my zero biscuit now.
Mom: That is your zero biscuit on your plate. Because zero means ‘no biscuit.’
A few minutes later…
Mom: Which biscuit did you like better, your one biscuit or your zero biscuit?
Cal: The zero biscuit.
Math moments happen everyday and I appreciate that Shannon took the time to notice, document and share this one!
Molly Daley is a Regional Mathematics Coordinator at ESD 112 in Vancouver, WA. She started the Math Anywhere! project to help children and their grown-ups experience the creative and playful side of mathematics. As soon as she learned there was more to math than the rules she memorized in school, Molly was hooked. She believes math is expansive and she likes helping people recognize their own mathematical connection.