I noticed recently that my daughter has acquired a new math skill. She can (with some help regarding the number of days in each month), figure out how many days it will be until some future date. This is an important skill for kids, because they often urgently want to know things like:
- How many days until my birthday?
- How many days until April Fool's day?
- How many days until summer vacation?
- How many days until Christmas?
Of course counting the days is fairly easy if your target date is within the same calendar month as today. It still requires either counting forward or using subtraction, so even this simplest case is useful. My daughter used to do this by going to the wall calendar and counting the days, but she has grasped the abstraction of the numbers at this point, and usually doesn't need to.
When the target date is in a future month, the calculations are more complex. You have to be able to count how many days remain in this month, and then add the relevant days from the next month (plus other months, as applicable). We went through this exchange on March 20th:
Daughter: "How many days until April Fool's Day?"
Me: "Let's figure that out."
Daughter: "OK. How many days in this month?"
Daughter: "OK." Pause for thinking. "Ten, eleven, twelve. Twelve days until April Fool's Day!"
I was very proud. She counted by 10s to get to the 30th, then added in the 31st and the 1st. The next step will be counting the days until some event that's more than a month away. But there's no rush.
I think a key to the fact that she can do this calculation stems from my asking: "Let's figure it out." I ask that question ALL the time. If you train your kids to figure out the answers to numeric questions, instead of just telling them, they get used to it. They learn how to do it. They'll eventually do it on their own. Especially when the question is of vital importance, like knowing how long they'll have to wait for April Fool's Day.
Thanks for reading! I hope that some of you will find this useful. Wishing you all a fun April Fool's Day tomorrow!