The other day, 4 year old Kidlet pulled out the coin bank (where we put loose change) and claimed the money in it for herself.
“Am I rich?” she asked. I replied by asking her how much money was in the bank. “I don’t know,” she said. “How much money is this?”
I told her the only way for us to know right now was to count it. I pulled out a tray and had her lay out pennies in rows of ten. This was a good opportunity to revisit the concept of multiples of ten, something we’ve casually discussed over the last two weeks when we were looking at percentages, zeros and the difference between 10×10 and 10+10.
So here she is laying out the pennies:
After letting her count out the pennies for a few rows, several times, I asked if she wanted to know a faster way. She said yes, so we reviewed very briefly that 10+10 is 20, + 10 is 30. After that I let her figure out the multiples of ten on her own after every additional row of ten pennies.
Her excitement level increased the closer she got to 10 rows, and when she counted ten rows of ten and realized that she had 100 pennies laid out before her, she let out peals of laughter. Then she studiously recounted all the pennies one by one, twice, assuring herself (apparently?) that there were indeed 100 pennies.
As we poured the pennies in a bowl I informed her that all these pennies totaled one dollar. This seemed to blow her mind. She was ready for a break, so I wrote “100″ on a little scrap of paper and tossed that in the bowl, with the intention that we’d resume counting later or another day.
The next morning I woke up and noticed that Kidlet had poured more pennies into the bowl from the coin jar. I didn’t see her do that but I knew she hadn’t had time to count out the additional coins. What greatly amused me was seeing that she’d altered the scrap of paper I’d tossed in:
Later, when Kidlet rose for the day, I asked her about the additional coins and the scrap paper. “There are a thousand pennies now,” she said breezily. “I’m rich.” I asked if she knew what one thousand was (we’d discussed this a few weeks ago). ”One thousand means so many coins!” I reminded her that one thousand is 100, ten times.
“It’s a real number,” I said. “But you do have a lot of pennies in this bowl. We just don’t know exactly how many. The only way to know is to count them.” She looked at the bowl, and she looked at me. She looked at the scrap paper. “Okay,” she says. “But not right now. I gonna eat breakfast first.”