I was so happy to see the kids this week. We jumped right back in and began class with a stumper — what is the biggest number? There was a wide variety of answers — from 1,000 to “ten thousand million” to googleplex. No matter what anyone said I always answered back “that’s a big number! But isn’t that plus one bigger?” There was some frustration. In every class, at least one child brought up infinity. My response was always the same: “Infinity isn’t a number. It’s a concept.”
After much discussion, we were able to agree — there is no biggest number. No matter which number you name, that number plus one is always bigger. Numbers go on forever. Infinity encompasses this idea, the idea of something (like numbers) that goes on forever. Infinity is still a pretty tough concept for young children to grasp. We read Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford to gather some perspectives on what infinity means to different people.
We then moved on to writing and naming big numbers. I talked to the kids about how to read large numbers, which includes “knowing comma’s names.” The first (and sometimes only) comma in a number is named “thousand.” The second is named “million.” So long as you know the commas names and know how to read three digit numbers, you can read large numbers.
So to read 999,888,777, you read the number before the largest comma (nine hundred ninety nine) and then read the comma’s name (million), then you read the number before the next comma (eight hundred eighty eight) and then the next comma’s name (thousand) and then the remaining number (seven hundred seventy seven). Goodness, does this look confusing when written out! I hope it makes sense. It did to your children, at least while they were here in the cloffice. Once they leave, all bets are off.
We next talked about place value. We discussed how in a number like 562, the 2 is in the ones place and is worth 2. The 6 is in the tens place, so it’s worth 60. The 5 is in the hundreds place, so it’s worth 500. We wrote 500 + 60 + 2 on the board and agreed that it equals 562, while 5 + 6 + 2 equals 13. Which is really not even close to 562.
We did all of this in thirty minutes, so it may require some refreshing at home. Speaking of which, that’s one other thing we did — I reminded the kids that it is okay, even expected, to feel frustrated when doing the homework. It is not supposed to be easy. It is okay if they have to spend some time thinking about it. Being “smart” doesn’t mean that everything comes easily and we do it perfectly the first time. It means that we persevere even when things are difficult. I reminded the kids that the “no crying” rule means they should work to/though frustration but take a break or move on if they become really upset. These ideas will take time for some of them. For many of these kids, this is the first truly challenging work they’ve done. Learning how to deal with that is a process. It’s not always a fun process (for them or you), but it’s a necessary one.
Homework is a whopping four-page packet. Budget that week’s time in which they have to complete it. I don’t think any one piece of it should be too challenging, but if it is, let me know and let your child move on/skip that part.