-19,000 + 19,000 + 10,000 – 9,000 – 990 = 10
The calculation above was the response a fourth grader provided when asked to create a mathematical sentence with “10” in it.
The fourth grader’s response was given to my wife a few years ago when she visited that student’s classroom. My wife teaches at Fresno State and, as an education professor with an emphasis in elementary math, she delights in participating with kids in their classroom. For her, working with fourth graders and helping teachers learn how children learn is far more joy-filled than spending time on a university committee.
Often, when we get home in the evening, we’ll talk about what happened in each of our days.
“What’d you do today?”
And so I learned about a fourth grader who confidently used negative numbers in a problem. That little “-” before the 19,000 excited my wife. Negative can be positive! The student understood the complexity of numbers. Numbers are negative and positive and there are myriad ways to solve problems. Wow!
“What’d you do today?” My wife asked me.
This was when I served a church . . .
My day had been spent in a hospital’s intensive care unit, with a woman in our congregation near death. On the prior day, her “plugs were pulled,” and death, whether it would take minutes or days, was not far away.
My wife had been in a classroom with children’s hands waving over their heads: “Let me try an answer!!”
I’d been surrounded by medical machines and white-coated doctors.
One of the dying woman’s sons was there. The decision to remove her life support had been made by him in consultation with physicians and other members of the family. Close, beloved friends were present. Throughout the day, though she was categorized as “non-responsive,” friends held her hands, hymns were sung, and prayers—spoken and silent—were shared.
No one in the hospital said, or probably thought, “Wow!”
And yet, I believe there were more similarities with my wife’s day to mine than differences. Continue reading →