Monday, February 28, 2011

Toys? Games? Math!

My son was bored on Saturday afternoon. I suggested a game. No, he said, he did not want to play any games. How about building something with Legos? No. We can read. Or, maybe play some Wii. No and no.

Finally, Kai decided what he wanted to do.

He wanted to do math.

We went on the computer and I found a website that had math games. He played one that involved matching fractions, decimals and percents. Level 1 started out with easy problems, but by the time Kai got to Level 10, he was matching 5/6 with 83.3% and 11/12 with .917. He was able to answer that 1/400 = 0.25%, while 1/250 = 0.4%. I thought that was not bad for a boy who just turned seven years old.

Then he found out that there were math videos on the same website. Now the thought of watching videos about mathematics probably would not excite most kids, or most of you for that matter. But, Kai couldn’t be happier. That the topics were new to him, and probably well beyond the interest of most first graders, only seemed to intrigue him even more. The first one he wanted to watch was “What is a prime number?” The next one he selected was “What is prime factorization?” The third one was “What are divisibility rules?”

How many kids would choose to spend a Saturday afternoon learning about prime factorization? For that matter, how many grown ups even know what it is? I certainly wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything about it before watching these videos with my son.

And yet, Kai was spellbound. This boy, who can’t seem to sit in his chair for more than 90 seconds at a time while eating dinner, stayed seated the entire time while the narrator explained how to find the prime factorization of 525. This boy, whose mind never stops wandering when he is supposed to be doing his school homework, had a laser-like focus as he listened attentively to the divisibility rules for the numbers one through ten.

After he finished watching the videos, he finally got out of his seat – just long enough to get some paper and a pencil. Then, he was back in his chair as he replayed each one. On second viewing, he took notes the way a dedicated college student might in his favorite class.

When Mom got home later that afternoon, Kai couldn’t wait to go over his notes with her and to teach her all the exciting things he had learned. That night, he brought all of his math notes with him to bed, wanting them close by the way most kids would want to snuggle with a favorite stuffed animal.

But, who needs stuffed animals, or toys, or games when you have math?

By the way, for those of you interested, the prime factorization of 525 is 3 x 5 to the second power x 7. If you need more of an explanation, please contact my son.

If you are curious to see the math videos that fascinated my son, they can be found here.


  1. I'm with Kai. Prime factorization is oddly soothing to me. But then again I teach 5th grade math!

  2. Molly, you're a math teacher? That's great! If you lived around here, you could have been Kai's tutor.

  3. .............. Well there it is. He's smarter than me. I'm three times his age and he knows more about math than me. :'(


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