[Reposted from Alexandra O Fradkin’s blog Musings of a Mathematical Mom]
Friday is story day in our Kindergarten math class. For our first book we read Two of Everything, a Chinese folktale. We then had a wonderful discussion and the kids asked some very insightful questions.
Here is a brief synopsis of the story: A poor elderly couple find an old brass pot in their garden and it turns out to be magic. Whenever you put something into the pot, two of that thing come out! The couple started doubling everything and soon became very rich. One day, the husband accidentally pushed his wife into the pot and then fell into it himself. After some initial arguing, the two couples realized that they could become the best of friends and use the pot to create two of everything, one for each couple.
At the end of the story, one of the kids asked, “But would there also be two pots?” What a great question! I said that I thought there would be only one pot, but some kids disagreed. They spent several minutes debating whether it was possible to put the pot inside of itself to create a second one.
The discussion then moved on to how one would make lots of something. The kids suggested that you could just keep putting the same object into the pot over and over again, creating one more each time. I then asked them what would happen if we put two of the same object into the pot at the same time. They all immediately yelled out that you would get three of that object. My next question was whether only one of the objects would be doubled or both. This led one of the kids (and then the rest) to realize that in fact, four of that object would come out.
I wanted to ask them about putting three or more objects into the pot, but it was time to move on. Perhaps that was for the best because they already had a lot to take in. I hope to come back to this topic and can’t wait to read more stories with them. I feel that stories engage this age group like nothing else does. And I absolutely love the questions and thoughts that the kids come up with!