Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Working and Observing by Grampa

Along with babysitting, I got one project out of the way; remodeling a spare bedroom which was badly in need of work anyway, into a sewing room for Mrs. Eyes (her name is Everly). This room will also double as a sleepover room for the grandkids. They've slept over in there before but we weren't happy with the way it looked. Now we are.

My granddaughter who will be 3 July 4th has really been stringing sentences together lately. But last week I noticed she hasn't yet grasped the meaning of counting. She brought me three little refrige magnets which were Dalmatians one with a blue shirt, one with a yellow shirt and one with no shirt. I asked "How many do you have?" and she said "I don't know". So I said lets count them and I pointed at blue shirt, yellow shirt and no shirt while saying '1', '2', '3'. You have three doggies I said. Later she brought them to me again and I tried to repeat the exercise. Again she said she didn't know how many she had. So again I pointed to them counting 1,2,and 3 only this time I pointed at yellow shirt, no shirt and blue shirt. She then said loudly "No" pointing at yellow shirt "This is 2" and pointing at no shirt "This is 3" and "This is 1" pointing at blue shirt. That's when I understood what she was doing conceptually. She remembered how I counted them before. She's treating numbers as if they were a kind of name which when assigned to a thing, the thing always carried that number-name with it. I think she'll be grasping the idea of quantity very soon. But I marvel at how such little ones deal with concepts they don't yet understand.


Myrhaf said...

Fascinating observation! Can we infer from this that counting is an abstraction?

Mike N said...

I think so since animals can only count to say a handful. They can't abstract the concept of quantity away from the objects they perceive. Only humans can do that. I would say that the act of counting is a process of abstraction.

Kim said...

I was just reading The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way by Joy Hakim (recommended by Deb on a comment on my blog). The author points out that in ancient times the symbol for 6 bags of grain was an entirely different symbol from 6 pigs, for instance. The number written was specific the thing counted. It is a wonderful abstraction to realize that '6' means 6 of anything.

Mike N said...

Thanks for the historical tip. I didn't know that. It looks like such an error could be more common in early conceptual development than I had thought.