The Abstract Thinker's Guide to Math

Both of my children are, naturally, brilliant. They are both very good readers for their prospective ages, and are incredibly imaginative and funny. But, showing that she truly is a girl after her mother’s heart, math has been one of those problem areas for Emily. I think her abstract brain gets in the way, as I saw last night.

She came home yesterday with four pages of math worksheets to practice for a test today, and one of the topics was number patterns. The question said: “What is 30 more?” and then had a number below it and four choices as to what the answer was. For example, the first number was 302, and she had to figure out that 332 was the answer that was “30 more.” There were three other questions that were the same sort of thing.

This was incredibly difficult for her to understand. I don’t know how many times we went over it. She even completed all four questions, adding 3 to the tens column for each one, but when I wrote down another sample question on a piece of paper she had no idea what to do with it, and when I asked her how she figured out the ones on the homework she had no idea what to say, even though we’d just done it. It was really really frustrating, but I was trying my best to remain patient. I kept trying to get her to remember how she figured out the answers to the other problems, and this was the answer she finally gave me.

“I think about the number, 3 3 3 3.” Here she kind of scrunched up her eyes and looked like she was concentrating really hard. “It’s like brainstorming. I think about the number, and then I follow the path in my brain until I find the secret door, and when the door opens I find the answer!”

I might think that my daughter has some kind of magical psychic powers if this method actually worked and gave her the right answers. But it didn’t.

I tried not to laugh so that I wouldn’t hurt her feelings while I tried to convince her that the “secret door” method wasn’t really math and wouldn’t work. It’s far better just to add.

Half a frustrating hour later, I was going over the last thing with her. I waited for her to pick the answer (which was multiple choice) and after a while she pointed to the right one. I had been asking her why she thought her answer was right before telling her if it was or not, but I could tell she was at the end of her rope so I decided to just tell her that yes, she was right, and go on.

Her face lit up. “Oh good! I just did eenie meenie miney moe and it worked!”


I don’t know how to get Emily out of the world of guessing and feeling and finding the “secret door” for the right answer and into the world of actual math. But at least she has an interesting mind.

Something that creative mind is far better at is artsy things, and so specimens of these things adorn our dining room wall. They include things she and Daniel do at school, and also things that they (mostly Emily) come up to do at home. She’s really quite creative.

Daniel’s things tend to be stick drawings of the family, saying how much he loves us and loves being with us. They touch a mama’s heart!!
This says “I am thankful for my family” and I’m glad to see he would even love us if we had no arms.

This says “I am holding hands with my sister,” and Emily was so touched by it that she drew the heart with “I love you” inside it in reply. He does a lot of drawings at school about Emily and loving her, which I must say is really wonderful to me!

This is the drawing that won Daniel “first place” during fire prevention week...which is kind of funny.

There’s also the exciting world of sculpture. Daniel was quite proud of this one.

Now for Emily...This is “Niklas” she says. I don’t know why she chose that name. But she sat in the playroom one afternoon coloring and cutting and pasting and this was the final result from out of her head.

This picture came home yesterday and cracked us up. Tim laughed so hard he cried when I showed it to him yesterday, and said, “Oh gosh, please tell me that isn’t supposed to be me!” Emily says it’s supposed to be “Captain Underpants.”

But this one really impressed me. It reminds me of one of those Oriental paintings. I think I might want to frame it!

I love my childrens’ artwork. It’s like a window into their soul, a part of their hearts and minds that I otherwise never see. Maybe this is what lies behind that “secret door” of Emily’s!