Word problems are popular in our house. We make them up all the time, it’s sort of a reflex at this point. Most of the math homework the kids bring home consists of only word problems. I guess that’s the trend these days rather than straight up addition and subtraction problems. That’s cool with me, I think word problems are fun! Even a 3 year old can see what’s going on. Consider these examples, straight from the mouth of my smallest sweetie in the past few days:

In the bathtub:
“If I have three pillow pets and you take away 3 of my pillow pets, I won’t have any pillow pets. I’ll have zero.”

Riding in the car:
Ramona: My friend Nina has 5 yellow dresses. I’m going to take one. How many dresses does she have now?
Me: 3.
Ramona: Not threeeee, four!!

She gets it! In case you’re wondering, Nina is her imaginary friend (along with Casey and Milly). Nina’s mom, Lilianna, buys her lots of dresses. Nina in this case is not to be confused with our real-life friend Nina. We have no shortage of imaginary friends these days, it gets confusing.

My point in writing about this is to demonstrate that even a toddler can catch on to this “math talk”. She has picked up the verbal cues to form a word problem.  She hears us speak the pattern frequently, and has figured out how to apply the words to her version of the world.  She’s showing us she can think through situations and come up with an answer (often correct, as in the case of Nina’s dress). She also thinks this is fun.

 Of course sometimes she just makes up crazy stuff that makes no sense, and I try to encourage that just as much as the well-reasoned word problems. I’m not saying this is particularly brilliant, but it shows how repetition helps the “math talk” sink in and helps mathematical thinking become part of our everyday lives. Making math an integral part of our daily lives… now where have I heard that before?  π

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