Jabberwock is sorting his money into piles: pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. We are talking about each of those coins being worth different amounts, and at first he was completely baffled by that. "What does that mean, it's worth twenty-five cents?" he asked. We counted together up to twenty-five. I showed him a pile of twenty-five pennies and we talked about how they were the same as one quarter.
He gave me that look, you know the one. Like, "Who are you trying to fool, Mom?"
I am remembering lectures from developmental psychology involving pouring water from different sized containers, how kids without abstract reasoning cannot understand a short, fat cup holding more than a tall, skinny one.
We played around with the coins a little bit more, with me introducing the concept of counting by tens when we counted the dimes. Jabber's little brow wrinkled with confusion, or maybe it was contempt. "Mom! You're not doing it right!" He pointed to each of the dimes and very seriously counted off, "One, two, three, four, five."
"Yeah, exactly!" I said. "But each one is worth ten cents, so we have to count them by tens. See? Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty!"
A puzzled silence. Then, in a small voice, "Why would you want to do that?"
"So you can count your money. So you know how many dollars you have."
Jabberwock looks relieved. "Oh, that's easy, Mom. I don't have ANY dollars. Just cents."
I am still not getting it that he's not getting it. "Ha, ha. But these cents make dollars, don't you know? Here, let's try counting by tens again."
Jabber scoops his hand across all the piles, quickly mixing all the coins. "You know what I want to practice?" he asks.
"Dumping my coins into this container. I'm really good at that, Mom."
Hmmm. Maybe I shouldn't attempt to teach math, hey?