Saturday, May 21, 2016

Ten Teen

My two and a half year old daughter did several things with numbers yesterday that I had never heard her do before.

We were out on a walk, and someone walking two dogs passed us.

(That was my count, anyway.)

"Five!" Mia exclaimed.

"Where do you see five?" I asked.

"Five dogs!" she answered, pointing back over her shoulder.

Then she looked ahead to another dog that was approaching.

"Six!" she proclaimed.

Two new things here:

  1. I had never heard her use a number greater than 2 to describe the total quantity in a group of objects. She has said "two books" and "one moon," but nothing over two that would show that she understands that a bigger number can be a total quantity. (We math teachers call that cardinality.)
  2. She said "five" and then she said "six." I know this doesn't sound like a big deal. But it was the first time I had heard her count on, without starting at 1. 
Sadly, the dogs passed so quickly by that we never had a chance to see if there had been 5 dogs or 2 in that first group. (I am pretty sure I was right, though.)

Later, at dinner, she stretched her hand up in the air and started counting at 4.

"4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, ten teen," she said.

"Yes!" I said. "We really should have a number called 'ten teen.'" 

"I don't think she knows about 13 and 14," my husband said.

Mia, overhearing him say "fourteen," immediately started counting at 40.

"40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, forty-ten!" she said happily.

"Yes," I said. "And the name for forty-ten is fifty!"

"50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, fifty-ten!" she continued.

"Yes," I said. "And the name for fifty-ten is sixty!"

What is so cool here is her understanding that there is a repeating pattern to our number system. She has only heard someone count above 30 about 3 times in her life, I would guess. But she has internalized something about the counting pattern.

And so we continued on to ninety-ten, at which point I told her ninety-ten was called one hundred, even though I wasn't sure if that was the right thing to say, since something big changes at 100. She's only 2 and a half, though, so I told her it was 100 without getting too complex, and we kept counting together until we got tired of the game. 

Then I dictated notes to my husband, who jotted down on the back of an envelope what had just happened while I held our wiggly ten month old with one hand and tried to finish my dinner with the other.


  1. I love this so much! And I especially love that you're blogging!!!

    Any chance she'd been keeping a running total of dogs? Maybe those two dogs were actually the fourth and fifth dogs she'd counted on the walk? I'm wondering because of the way she counted the sixth dog...

    1. (I realize it's unlikely and that's really hard, but maybe?)

    2. Huh, I never thought of that! I was surprised because she seems to be able to subitize two things. I figured the dogs were fast-moving and therefore she counted wrong. Or just guessed. I think it is unlikely she was keeping a running total, but possible...