We’ve been working on more probability problems and this has forced me to recognize what the real goal of this approach to math is: learning to work for sustained periods on tough problems. The difficulties Tigger has faced in the past few days have not been about the math, per se. They seem to have arisen from the fact that the problem I have given her to work on is not one that she should be able to find “the answer” to in 5 minutes. And that even when she has been working for 20 minutes or more and doing good valuable work that contributes to finding the answer, I come an suggest other tacks she might take with the problem.
There has been some shouting, crying, and other frustrated behaviour. But we are making progress. We’ve talked about the importance of the process. About how math isn’t necessarily about solving easy problems in large numbers and getting all the answers right. We’ve talked about the ice-cream problem, how tough it was, the wrong alleys, and how we got to the answer. Also how good it felt when we figured out that formula after all those frustrating attempts.
Yesterday we said we’d put the problem away for the day and come back to it tomorrow. When she said “We’ll finish it tomorrow.”, I corrected her and pointed out that we might not finish it but we’d work on it some more.
Today, we worked on it some more. Together. She started falling into letting me do lots of the work and that led to some more serious discussion and frustration on my part. We talked it through a bit, went over the discussion of what the goals were, etc. We switched to playing the game the problem is based on. With dad instead of me.
Tomorrow, we’ll work on it some more but we might call it quits even if it isn’t “finished”.
Her friend is going to come over sometime next week to work on the Lady or the Lions. I am so glad she has a friend who thinks that coming over to do math together sounds like fun.
In the meantime we might work on the Birthday problem*. When I mentioned that just now, she said “But we know the answer.” and I reminded her that we don’t know why that is the answer. She thought for a moment and agreed that maybe it would be a good one to work on. Maybe we are making progress, slowly.
* How many people do you need to have in a room for the probability of 2 of them having the same birthday to be 1 in 2? The answer is 23.