Five year old Hannah has been doing random speed checks from the back seat of my car since she was three. Looking out of the window on a recent family outing, she spotted an 80 km/hr speed limit sign. Hannah is making great progress in learning her numbers and she immediately informed me, “Granddad, it’s eighty zero!” I thanked her for the reminder to check my speed, but pointed out that when you see an eight and a zero together you just say ‘eighty’, not ‘eighty zero’.
“No, it’s eighty zero,” she asserted.
“I know that the numbers on the sign are an eight next to a zero, but how you say the number is just ‘eighty’.”
“No, it’s eighty zero!”
Well, what would I know? I only have been a Mathematics teacher for over thirty zero years!
That evening I was thinking about her insistance upon ‘eighty zero’. There is often a logic to Hannah’s five year old viewpoint. Then it clicked! An eight next to a one is, after all, eighty ONE isn’t it? 82 is eighty TWO and 87 is, of course, eighty SEVEN. So, logically, 80 would be eighty ZERO wouldn’t it? You can’t just forget about the zero bit can you? Why would it be otherwise?
Hannah’s unassailable logic struck home on another occasion. After burning some toast, her father stated that the smoke alarm had “gone off”. She quickly corrected him. The alarm hadn’t “gone OFF”. It had undeniably “gone ON”! As he stood on a chair frantically fanning the shrieking alarm with a newspaper, surely his objective was to make it “go OFF”? No question!
Everyone in the family can recount similar interchanges with Hannah.
I enjoy my granddaughter’s company and she seems to enjoy mine. Her imaginative role play games are powerful learning experiences for us both. Whenever we play ‘vets’ together, (a favourite game of hers in which she always chooses to be the vet with me as her assistant), we really are at the veterinary clinic bandaging the sore leg of a beloved stuffed toy or trying to diagnose why Walter the teddy bear wouldn’t eat his lunch. When we play school together, (she always chooses to be the teacher with me as the student), we really are at ‘school’, working through a series of learning activities in which she really does think about my personal learning needs. She covers important developmental areas like counting, reading stories, doing puzzles and colouring in, reminding me to be careful not to go over the lines, but always allowing me to choose my own colours. While we are playing it is ‘real’. For me, our play gives me insights into the way she makes sense of the world we share.
As an educator my interactions with Hannah remind me of how important it is to see our how we instruct through the eyes of our students.
Looking through my granddaughter’s five year old eyes encourages me to re-evaluate the way I think. She brings a simple clarity to what really matters. Everyone over thirty zero needs a Hannah in their life.
For me, at sixty zero, she has taught me that I still have much to learn!