Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Son and Numbers

My son has a thing about numbers.  I mean, he REALLY has a thing about numbers.

This fascination manifested itself from a relatively early age.  When Kai first started saying a few words, we found out that he sees numbers everywhere. For instance, he would pick up a fallen tree branch and say “seven.”  It sometimes would take us a little while to understand what he was talking about, but eventually we saw that the shape of the branch did look like the number seven if you held it a certain way.  Likewise, he would look at a paper towel hanging down off its roll and see the number 9.

As I mentioned before, when he was four, we found out that he had memorized the exit numbers of nearly every place he had been, even those where he only went once, a year previous. 

Since he loves numbers, it is no big surprise that he has quite an affinity for math. After he learned addition and subtraction at age three, he kept asking us, just for fun, to create addition and subtraction problems for him using two and three digit numbers. Shortly after he turned five, he found a book at our local public library that had multiplication tables in it. He asked me to explain them and, after one session of using beans and cups, he learned multiplication. He also might have been the only kid in his kindergarten class last year who knew how to do a little bit of division.

Earlier this year, he became very interested in the fifty states. But, even there, numbers factored into it. In just a couple of days, Kai learned the order in which the states entered the union. Many people know that Hawaii was the 50th state. But, how many know that Delaware was the first? Or, that Virginia was the tenth and Oklahoma was 46th? Kai could tell you. 

Just before his sixth birthday, he drew a map of the United States all on his own. But, instead of writing in the names of all of the states, he wrote a number for every state that represented the order in which they joined the U.S.  I had to look up the statistics online to check it out, and found out that he had it all correct.

Nowadays he is really into planets. As such, of course he can tell you their order from the sun. But, he also knows that Jupiter has 63 moons and that Mercury has none. I didn't know that until he told me.

We sometimes try to use his love of numbers to our advantage.  For instance, back when he was a pickier eater, we motivated him to eat his gluten-free chicken nuggets by having Mom teach him how to say a different number in Japanese after every bite.  While most kids love chicken nuggets, that was one of the few times back then that he ate his dinner readily.  Now, if you ask him how to say eight hundred in Japanese, he will gladly tell you. 

Last weekend, my wife and I got to play Frisbee golf for the first time by telling Kai that every hole has a different number.  He liked the order in going from hole to hole, as we went around the nine-hole course.  And, now that my wife told him that a regular golf course has 18 holes, he can’t wait to try that, too, someday.

I don’t know where this love of numbers will take him.  At times, we have been concerned that he is so obsessed with numbers that it hinders his social and emotional development.  So, is he a potential NASA engineer?  Or, someone who cannot get past the numbers and function well in the real world? 

One of our challenges as parents is to figure out how to channel his talents.  

1 comment:

  1. He'll be fine. There's a woman who is autistic and she graduated with PhD. Some autistic are the finest of the bunch in certain subjects.


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