Sunday, September 06, 2009

Unlucky Thirteen

My five year old, who is becoming quite adept at counting as well as doing basic adding and subtracting (unlike his father, he CAN do simple math in his head) startled me earlier this week when he repeatedly skipped the number thirteen when counting.

His numbering system goes like this:

" . . . nine, ten, eleven, twelve, fourteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen . . ."

So it's not that he doesn't know there's a numerical placeholder for thirteen -- he has just substituted thirteen for fourteen.

I mean, why not? Triskaidekaphobia (or fear of the number 13th) isn't uncommon.

Building planners have been skipping the number 13 for decades -- only, instead of allowing a placeholder for the thirteenth floor, they simply pretend that the number doesn't exist and skip right from twelve to fourteen. Like anybody is that dumb not to know they're on the thirteenth floor when they get to 14.

I wonder how many poor kids struggling in math were further confused by this "bury your head in the sand" numbering system.

So, unlike the building planners, my son's system actually works when you do the basic math. When you get to fifteen you actually know you're at the fifteenth unit of measure. And, for the record, he does pronounce the two fourteens slightly differently so he can distinguish the two of them from one another.

See, there's more than one way to eliminate an unlucky number rather than just pretending it doesn't exist.

Yet again, the logic of my five year old son makes me pause and reconsider things I've simply assumed or taken for granted. He has allowed me to see things in a whole new light.

Are there things in your life that you'd rather didn't exist?

Do you try to ignore them or do you come up with a system that incorporates them into your life in a manner that is less disruptive?

1 comment:

Greg Roberts said...

Gemma had been skipping 16 in her counting for some time, although not with any double counting as Alexander is doing. I'm not sure when she returned 16 to her vocabulary, but just a few days ago in counting to 20 while playing hide and seek I heard a 16 in there.