My Wife’s Son
I’m fortunate to have Joshua Zucker as a friend and colleague. Knowing that my sons have a penchant for math, he recently sent me a set of Got It! cards. Got It! is a game in which number cards and operation cards are alternately laid out in a grid, and the object is to find a set of at least five cards (three number cards and two operation cards) that form an expression equal to a certain target number. If you find such an expression, the target card is added to your collection, and the person who collects the most target cards wins.
For instance, the grid below shows an arrangement of 36 orange cards that are to be used to form either 23 or 29 (the blue target card on the left). I’ll give you a moment to find such an expression yourself.
Tonight before dinner, my sons and I played Got It! for the first time, and the challenge above was one with which we were presented. In less than 10 seconds, Alex found an expression equal to 23. Starting with the 8 in the third row, first column, he constructed the following:
(8 + 3 – 1) × 2 + 3 = 23
As he explained his solution, he said, “Well, 8 + 3 – 1 is 10, times 2 is 20, plus 3… simple.” Part of me thought, “That’s pretty good.” But most of me thought, “Wow, did my six-year-old son really just best me in a math game and then declare that it was simple?” Sure enough, he had.
Apparently, that wasn’t sufficient, though. The next target card was 25, and Alex again found a correct expression faster than Eli or I. Eli tried to hand the target card to Alex, but Alex demurred. “No,” he said. “I’m not playing this round, so you and Daddy can get some cards.” Part of me thinks he’s just a sweet six-year-old who doesn’t want to trounce us… but most of me thinks he’s developing an attitude that needs to be nipped in the bud.
My only solace is that he’s my wife’s son, and I’m sure he didn’t get this from me.
This reminds me of a story.
A friend’s six-year-old son said, “Daddy, I need help with a math problem I couldn’t do at school today.”
“Sure”, the father says with a smile. “What’s the problem?”
“Well, it’s really hard. There are four ducks in a pond, and two more ducks come and join them. How many ducks are now in the pond?”
The friend stares at his son and says, “You couldn’t do that? You don’t know that 4 + 2 = 6?”
“Of course I know that,” he says. “But what’s that got to do with ducks?”