14 March 2007

50/50 - A Story About Unschooled Math

Last night my son was asking me to take him to the store today to get something that he has been wanting. I have a day planned for errands sometime this week, but I wasn't sure whether it would be today or tomorrow (Thursday). Here is a little peek into our conversation:

He said, “What are the chances that we’ll go to the store tomorrow?”

I said, “Oh, about 50/50. I just don’t know yet.”

He said, “What does 50/50 mean?”

I said, “ Well 100% is a definite YES, and 0% is a definite NO, so 50/50 means it could go either way – 50% YES and 50% NO.”

I could see the thoughtful look in his eyes as he paused a moment and then asked, “Could it be 51 YES?”

BWaah haahahhha! I knew he “got it”! I cracked up. Of course I said it could be “51 YES” – and asked him how much a chance of NO that left him with and he knew it was 49 without much thought. So there you go there is a 51/49 chance that we are going to the store today. (I hate to tell him – there is a 100% chance we are NOT going – because I decided to do errands tomorrow.)

What I find most fascinating about this exchange is that math is one of the things I am most apprehensive about in our unschooling journey. It is the one thing that has the ability to wake me up at night with nightmares of them working as cashiers at the local Grub-mart and not being able to make change. But I was so thankful to see a glimpse that they are very capable of learning these things in bits and pieces and having a full understanding of it versus doing a pre-routed formula that someone else teaches them that may never give them a comprehensive understanding. I have been anxious about this – and had turned it over to the Lord. How good is He to show me this living example? It gets even better:

This morning, my 13 year old who has always disliked math asked me how many seconds were in a year. I told her that I didn’t know and that she could use the calculator to figure it out. After a few questions about the processes – when to add and when to multiply - she spent the next 30 minutes figuring out the seconds in the lives of every member of our family, including her 93 year old great-grandmother. She worked it out and learned how to say the numbers to as she read each of them to me. She calculated how many seconds she has had in her lifetime, and in mine. She also told me how many seconds there were so far in 2007. For a child that hated math this was amazing to watch.

I am so thankful to be on this delightful journey. What joy there is in watching my children learn all the time!


  1. That is so cool, Julie. I totally am with you on worrying about how will they "get" math through unschooling, but somehow they do! My 12 year old daugter took a Saxon placement test (yes she loves doing placement tests lol) for fun this week and scored where she could be in Algebra 1/2. This from the girl who still can never remember what 6+8 is lol. I guess they just somehow learn it!
    God bless ya, girl :)

  2. Great observation Julie, I love it when the kids figure this stuff out in their own way. Unschooling Rocks!!!! I hope each day you are a little less insecure :)

  3. Hi Julie! I love your insights about math. I don't know what I'd do without our little local homeschool, used bookstore, and the support group that comes with it.
    Wish you lived close by!


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