A few weeks back, bedtime was spiraling out of control. The kids share a room; they would be wound up at bedtime and the transition to sleep was not happening smoothly. We had a big, big problem on our hands.

We solved the problem with 10-minute reading time. The kids have to be in their beds. We dim the lights. We set a timer for 10 minutes. It has to be quiet during that time. Then we turn out the lights, do the picture (remember the elephants?) and sleep comes more easily.

Complete transformation. It is awesome.

Tabitha, the other night, wanted to color. We talked and agreed that she could do it sometimes. As is the nature of 5-year olds, she soon wanted to know the limits.

The following conversation took place on Wednesday night this week.

Tabitha (five years old): I know I can’t color every night but can I tonight?

Me: Yes.

T: Then read, then color the next night?

Me: I don’t know. I think reading twice before the next color is better.

To be clear. It was not my intention to get into a math conversation at this point. I just wanted her to go to bed.

No, this move on my part was truly about literacy, not math. I don’t want 10-minute reading time to turn into 10-minute coloring time. I really, really like the idea that books will become part of my kids’ independent bedtime routines.

But Tabitha loves to know the rules she’s playing by. And when those rules are based on numbers, they’re going to lead to math every time.

Me: Right. That sounds like a good ratio.

Whoa.

Couple things.

First of all, I used the term ratio with absolutely no expectation that she would process it, and I am quite sure that she did not. I have long been an advocate of using good vocabulary with my children—there is no shame in not knowing the meaning of a word, but also no sheltering them from the fact that these words exist. This is at least partly the source of their substantial vocabularies. But I do not believe she knows the word ratio.

Secondly, Tabitha’s reformulation of the 2:1 ratio as 4:2 blew me away. It nearly slipped past me without notice. I was focused on getting them to bed; we were in the truly final phase of that process. I had pretty much tuned her out.

But when I looked at her, I could see she was expecting a reply. She needed to know whether she could get two coloring nights in a row by doing four reading nights in a row.

So I replayed her question in my mind, counting the reads.

Me: Yes. That would be fine. You may do that.

### 4 responses to “10-minute reading time”

1. Tabitha is going to be an awesome mathematician – keep doing what you’re doing!

2. “GUESS WHO GETS TO SNUGGLE MEEEEE?!”

And so begins bedtime for my 5-year-old. Keira then announces whether it’s Mommy’s or Daddy’s turn. She’ll reassure the other one of us that our turn is coming. At first, it was a simple A-B pattern: Mom last night, Dad tonight, and Mom tomorrow night, etc. The patterns became more elaborate and I’d play ‘what comes next?’ with her: “Mommy-Mommy-Daddy-Mommy-Mommy-…?” Recently, I noticed something else: Keira has a benchmark of 1/2. If she is telling the parent who isn’t getting to snuggle her what the pattern is, this parent will get more days in her core in an attempt to protect our feelings. For example, MMDDD if it’s Mom’s turn tonight (day 1 of pattern). Or, she’ll intentionally under-represent one parent, usually me, to get a mock reaction.

Thanks for sharing. I hadn’t thought about this in terms of equivalent ratios. I suspect she will see MMDD as having the same “fairness” as MD. I’ll have to see what she thinks about MDD and MMDDDD.

3. Great story. Sometimes we don’t give the kids credit for their intuition – they are smarter than we think.

I built a shapes game for my 5 year old to teach her the names of some shapes. She would match shapes that were different presentations of triangle, oval, rectangle etc. I found it quite amazing that the 3 year old was able to do the matching too. She just wasn’t able to tell me the name of the shape. She knew the shapes were the same even if they were rotated, bigger or smaller, different angles, wider, slimmer etc. I’ve been trying to harness and build that intuition when teaching them the formal math presentation for concepts they understand e.g. fractions.

4. Beautiful.

Thank you for sharing. I’m sure these moments happen more often but may go unnoticed because not all have that math teacher lens. Not all have a math teaching blog. And not all can put it down in words as well as you have here.

Well done.