Don't Count Your Chickens...or, well Yeah, Count Your Chickens

Chicken Math.jpg

An interesting math lesson has arisen. The chicks have become almost impossible to catch, or even count. It's a comedy routine watching the kids (or better yet an adult), try to round them up. They mingle in the bushes, they're scattered all over the yard, they even drift in and out of gaps in the fence. Scoot, scoot, scoot - those little chicks are hard to catch.

We started with eleven, but one died and now we're down to ten. On top of that, we've finally moved them from the greenhouse to the coop, and they sometimes get lost along the way to the yard in the morning (the big hens are no help). Point is, we have to count them often to make sure none are lost, but it's hard to count ten skittering chicks, especially when children are running helter-skelter through them.

But as you'll notice, we have four black chicks, four golden and two "hawk-eyes." The kids know this, and it's much easier to count four black, four golden and two hawk-eyes than ten scurrying chicks. Four plus four plus two. We don't even make a big point of it. Instead, the children are simply living the subtle lesson of grouping and counting.

At this stage (kindergarten) it's not so much about exact numbers and getting it right as it is about the ability to see a group of objects as a subdivided set. Human beings naturally distinguish 1, 2 and 3 objects (like birds in the sky). Four and five take a bit of effort, but once you get to 6, 7 and beyond even the most intelligent adults in the world have to count. Try it. But reducing a large set to bite-size chunks and then combining them is the stuff of genius. These children get to do that without even knowing that's what they're doing. It's just a part of our days. That's education at a level we have a hard time teaching in schools.