Getting Personal

When you make up problems/stories for your kids, do you make them about generic boys and girls or do you personalize them?  I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’ve noticed that making a problem personal can both help and hinder kids coming up with the solution.  What has been your experience with this?  Here are some examples of personalized problems I gave to Katie recently:

1)  There are 2 blue candies and 1 green one.  Mommy, Katie, and Zoe each get one.  Katie and Zoe get different colors.  What color candy does mommy get? 

Katie: Blue…and Zoe gets blue also.

Me: Why is that?

Katie: Because I want green!

2) Two girls go outside with their bikes and they ride off on five wheels.  How is this possible?

Katie: Maybe they have a bicycle with one wheel in front, two behind that, and two more in the back?

Me: Interesting idea, but they problem says that they have multiple bicycles.

Katie: Then I don’t know.

Me: Ok, what if you and Zoe went bike riding.  Would the bikes be the same?  What would Zoe’s bike look like?

Katie: (smiling) Ah, Zoe could have a tricycle.

One thing to note here is that in Russian there is a generic word for ?-cycle.  One can then separately say how many wheels it has if that’s not obvious from context. 

3) Setup: We are playing a game where my sister and I have red bags and Katie has a purple bag. 

Problem: There are two red bags and one purple bag.  Katie and mommy have the same color bags.  Who has the purple one?

Katie (looking very upset): No, I will not give away the purple one!  (Purple is her current favorite color.)

In general, I like sometimes giving her problems where the solution is something absurd or just not true.  In this case it didn’t go over well because of the clash with something she really cares about.  However, when I gave her the problem “Zoe is taller than Katie and Katie is taller than mommy; who is the tallest?” that generated a lot of laughter and amusement.

 

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About aofradkin

I enjoy thinking about presenting mathematical concepts to young children in exciting and engaging ways.
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