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17 December 2000 @ 09:43 am
Teaching to Think  
A. B. C. D. E. F. G.
It's so easy - can't you see?
One. Two. Three. Four.
Knock on wood - Knock on the door.
I did tutoring today for about three hours. I was trying to teach this girl, Jaclyn, how to read and count. She's eight or nine, but she hasn't got the basics down. It's really sad.

"Jackie," I said, holding out a handful of marbles, "How many do I have?"

She hesitated, and then took them from me. "One...two...three...five...six..." She counted very slowly as she handed each marble back to me.

"You forgot four, honey."

"...four...five...seven..."

"What comes after five?"

"...six...one...three..."

"Let's start over, okay?" I gave her back the marbles. A fierce determination crosses her face. "One...two...three...four...five...six...seven...eight."

"I knew you'd get it!" I took three of the marbles and put them in her hand. "How many do you have?"

"One, two, three."

"How many do I have?"

"One, two, three, four, five...five!"

"And if I give you my marbles, how many will you have?"

"Onetwothree and onetwothreefourfive...threefive?"

I took a deep breath. I really don't know how to explain math...addition and subtraction are so basic I suppose I take them for granted. "If you have three in one hand, and five in the other, it's the same as counting up three and five. How many marbles are there altogether?"

"Eight."

"So if I have five and you have three, but there are still eight marbles..."

"Then threefive is the same as eight." She finished for me, and then gazed up at me with hopeful puppy-eyes.

"Y-Yes. Three plus five, or threefive (I guess) is the same as eight."

I helped her through a whole page of these same basic problems. It seemed to last forever, but I hope that she remembers this time. I'd hate to have that work undone.

I can't help but wonder why her teacher didn't install these basics into her before...what do public schools teach you in your earliest years? I went to a private preschool and elementary, but I remember when I started attending sixth grade at a public school I was lightyears ahead. I had learned to think at some point, though most of the other kids merely parroted the lessons back at the teacher. Jaclyn seems to only be parroting back what I tell her.

When and who teaches a child how to think?