The other day one of my Common friends (dog walking companions on the Common), claimed that her dog could count. I was a little dubious. With the greatest respect to Rusty he isn’t the cleverest dog on the Common. But then she explained: if she brings in two plates of food when she is on her own, Rusty gets excited. If her partner is present he doesn’t bother when she brings in two plates of food but gets excited when she brings in three (yes he does share her food, yes he does eat off the same plates, yes he is spoilt rotten, no she doesn’t have any children). So maybe claiming a counting dog may be stretching the truth a little, but he can certainly work out when there is one extra plate to number of humans present.
A little later I watched a video of two Capuchin monkeys who had to work together to release six nuts from a jar. The monkey holding the jar then fairly divided the nuts giving 3 nuts to the other monkey. The video was showing how animals work together to solve a problem, but I was amazed at how the money could correctly divine 6 nuts by two.
So in my limited way I am starting to appreciate just how ingrained a Mathematical ability is in a range of living creatures. It is a theory that bigger brains than mine have been positing for some time (The Maths Gene, Keith Devlin), but time and again it confirms itself when I watch children “play” with Roamer.
Try this for yourself – set up a Roamer challenge with a mathematical context and sit back and watch. You will be amazed at the amount of Maths your pupils are using, Maths that you haven’t necessarily introduced to then yet, but Maths that they intrinsically understand. It seems to me that when we teach Maths we sort of try to force it into the children but actually what we should be doing is allowing them to bring it out of themselves. It is already there in its basic form, by nurturing it and allowing it to grow, challenging it to help develop it we develop mathematical understandings that are already part of their being. Force feed them formulas and methodologies then forever and a day their mathematical understanding will consist of phrases such a “two minuses is a plus” – an ability to do but no solid ground of understanding.
So I am really proud of the way Roamer can help children to bring out the Maths that is already in them, perhaps I should introduce him to Rusty.