Math with Multiple Ages

Sometimes we get so involved in homeschooling, teaching or studying “methods” that we can lose track of the simple joy of a task.

My son, who loves counting things has taught me that counting is a most joyful task and has benefits for all ages – even adults! My entire life I always thought of it as a game. I’ve always enjoyed math and found it akin to putting together a puzzle. You know a picture will form in the end and the excitement is to find out what that will be. But math as pure joy?

Sunii will spontaneously count things. We will drive by a wire with birds perched on it and he will say “Mom, that wire has 34 birds.” After a few times of this I actually stopped to count them – and sure enough – there were 34 birds. I remember once when we went to theater we walked in and within a minute he said to me “There are 116 chairs in this theater”. I was shocked.

“How did you figure that out?” I said.

He didn’t know. So I counted…sure enough there were 116 chairs.

At this point you may be thinking that this sounds like a wonderful activity for toddlers or kindergarten kids you know. However, Sunii and his friends are still counting at ages 10 and 12 – and enjoying it immensely. They inspired me to start counting again and to look up some of the emotional, mental and physical benefits of counting (which I’ve listed below). We recently took a trip to the science center and the highlight of the trip for them was counting the rings in a 263-year-old tree.

Not staring at it and saying “wow” like I did, but actually counting them. Sunii wanted to make sure the people who posted the sign had counted right – LOL!

It causes me to meditate on the activity of counting. We have our toddlers count from one to ten and we honor that, then we start our children counting and adding things together and we go from there….but somewhere along the way, the simple joy of counting gets lost.

So what are the benefits of counting? It is certainly an activity that you can do anywhere – in nature, on a car ride, as a game, in the class…

1. Counting is meditative. The longer you count, the more relaxed you become. It can even help you sleep.

2. Counting is a centering activity. It represents the element of earth and grounding. When a person feels upset or anxious they can count and it will bring them back down to the calm of the earth element.

3. Counting is security. In a world where the news broadcasts 24-hours of drama, families are broken and people are losing their homes, it is reassuring to find that the numbers always stay the same.

4. Counting is confidence. A child who is able to count objects and challenge themselves to count more quickly or more efficiently or more creatively creates more confidence in their basic math ability. This makes them more likely to appreciate and enjoy doing more advanced math.

5. Counting is intelligence. A child who challenges themselves in counting creatively is actually practicing a very basic precept of “mental math”.Learning mental math helps to develop mental calculation abilities, leads to greater mental capacity, promotes intuitive thinking, enhances problem-solving capability, and enhances creativity

6. Counting promotes patience and endurance. Counting improves concentration and mental endurance. It took the children ten minutes to count the rings on the tree – and they often had to start over from the beginning if they lost track. I was surprised at the patience they exhibited and the determination they each had to finish the task.

So next time you have an opportunity, ask yourself, “Do you really count?” Or are you passing by all those amazing opportunities?

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