What is context?

I asked Miru what 배 ‘bae’ and 눈 ‘nun’ means. She says ‘pear’ and ‘snow’. But in Korea, bae also means boot and nun also means eye. I tell her that it depends on the context. Context is the concept I want to explain to her today.
“Papa what is that, context?”
-“Context is a story. It is the story you are in.”
“What story?”
-“For example, I say it is a cold day and there is a lot of nun.”
“That is a short story.”
-“A context-story can be short. What does nun mean here?”
“Snow!”
-“And when I say grandfather is looking for his glasses because his nun is not so good any more?”
“Eye!”
-“Exactly. So you know what context is.”

Why am I sharing this? I believe there are some very useful concepts that are generally not taught to children. I already explained her what an oxymoron is. Next up will be paradox, irony, justice, equality, compatibility, intentionality, relativism. Any suggestions?

What is context? was originally published on Meandering home

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Math

Dear Miru,

Your calculating is improving and you actually like it. We play with numbers together. Two times ten is twenty. Six plus five is eleven. Ten minus 2 equals eight. It is all very playful. You learn how to figure out calculations by making drawings of dots, lines, squares on the whiteboard. You don’t just learn what the outcome of a calculation is, you learn how to prove it with confidence.

Don’t worry, we won’t plough through Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica in its entirety. The most fundamental proof that one and one equals two is indeed rather complicated and requires many of its pages. For the sake of the not very rigorous math education I will give you, we are just going to assume it.

But I won’t let you off the hook all the time! When we get to square numbers and, for example, you observe a pattern when you make a series of the difference between to adjacent squares, (1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64) => (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15) it will not be enough. We will prove why the pattern is there. I will teach you about prime numbers and some of the wonderful maths that involve them, something I learned much too late in the development of my numeracy because I was subjected to a primitive form of rote-learning that lacked inspiration or creativity, the kind of learning that destroyed so many children’s appetite for numbers and mathematics.

I am already very proud when you can teach me that six plus six equals twelve and you can also draw a 3 by 4 square to make twelve.

Math was originally published on Meandering home

Learning fun: Odd one out

Dear Miru,

Everyday you are a little bit smarter. I try to catch up with you and come up with a suitable game. Today, I play ‘The odd one out’ with you. I mention four items and you tell me which one doesn’t belong in the list and why. You are good at it! We discovered that sometimes, there are multiple reasonings possible and there is no one correct answer. This is to show you that the ability to reason itself is more important than the answer, an important reminder when educational tests are reduced to multiple choice questions for the sake of efficiency. We begin with easy ones, like three colors and a chair, or any funny object that makes you laugh. Then we proceed to more ambiguous (remind me to teach you that word) series, such as

  1. eyes
  2. nose
  3. buttocks
  4. mouth

Buttocks, you say, and not only because you like to say that word. Because they are not on your face. This is indeed the predicament of most people, however according to some there are exceptions, usually involving people with a different political persuasion than their own.

What if I say the eyes are the odd one out, because they’re all made of skin and the eyes are not? I see you thinking (it is wonderful, can you believe me, to see your four year old child thinking!) about the reason. Which reason is more valid? How do you determine the oddest one out? Or can oddities not be compared to each other?

Learning fun: Odd one out was originally published on Meandering home

Bilingual child’s creative translation

Today, like most days, my four years old daughter Miru sang a song in kindergarten. When I asked her to sing it to me after I picked her up and she was enjoying an ice slushy that colored her tongue orange, she rendered a perfect translation in Dutch.

Good, the song consisted of three distinct words (‘Car, car, car. Let’s go’ in Korean) but her translation took me by surprise because it was creative: ‘Auto, auto, auto. Even weg’.

This comes so naturally to her that I begin to understand how multilingual children are hard-wired differently from the rest of us. According to a Russian-Italian I once asked about it, they think ‘in images and concepts’ rather than in words. The above translation would be a perfect example of it. Miru had sung the song in Korean, but probably remembered Dutch TV animations about cars that she had watched at home. The idiom “even weg” might have come from an animation or TV show she is watching, or she might have heard the expression while visiting her paternal grandfather in the Low Countries. Either way, instead of looking up the term for ‘let’s go’ in some sort of internal dictionary, her mind had browsed all ‘car’ situations and concepts and selected one labeled ‘Dutch’. And that concept happened to be accompanied with the phrase ‘even weg’.

Bilingual child’s creative translation was originally published on Meandering home