Tag Archives: arthur

What counts as a math question? (And how early do we set the tone?)

Griffin (7) and I had been talking math for a few minutes. Tabitha (5) wanted in on the action.

Tabitha: Ask me a math question.

Me: OK. You, me, Mommy and Griffy are riding in a car…

T: No! Like a math class question. Like 3+3=4.

Me: OK. What’s 2+3

T: (quickly) 4?

Me: No.

T: 6?

Me: No.

T: 5?

Me: You’re guessing…If you had 2 prize tickets at the arcade and Griffy had 3, how many would you have together?

T: (turns around, thinks quietly for a few seconds, fingers twitching) 5.

Me: Yes, that’s right. Nice. I could really see you were thinking there. So because of that, 2+3 is 5.

T: I said five!

Tabitha is five years old. She was in half-day pre-K, starting full day Kindergarten in the fall. This child has no personal experience with “math class”. And already, she has the sense that a question about a situation in her real life isn’t a math class question. There are two likely culprits here.

(1) Arthur.

Tabitha loves her morning Arthur fix. Lots of school scenes there, and I haven’t watched too closely, but I’m guessing that modeling reform mathematics pedagogy is hardly top of the agenda for the writing team.

(2) Her brother

This boy looks all sweetness and innocence. But he’s learned what “math class” is from personal experience. And he holds tremendous influence in Tabitha’s world.


I get the last laugh. Notice that Tabitha objected that I was setting up a question that wasn’t a math class question. She didn’t claim I wasn’t setting up a math question.

I may not have gotten to teach these little guys’ math classes. But you better believe I’m their primary math teacher.

And parents? Each of you can be your kid’s primary math teacher. Talk math with them.