Thursday, March 22, 2007

Observations from the 6-Year-Old

I was dropping my son off at his kindergarten the other day. While I went to talk with his teacher, he sat at his table drawing cars and airplanes on a piece of paper.

When I came back, he looked up at me and said
"Papa, in real life, things don't have lines around them."

I must admit that I had no idea that such deep thoughts were going on inside his mind! Being the good academic, and doting father, I proceeded to brag about my boy to all and sundry at work.

Upon hearing the tale, one old friend had the zen-like response,
"Ah yes. That is why it is so important to color within the lines. For there are no lines."



Anonymous Anonymous said...

but the lines show where the color would end in the real world (where there are no lines), so if the lines are properly understood by all concerned, there's no reason to avoid coloring outside them -- it's just a piece of paper.

Actually, a similar story about my son, who's a bit older. He's good in math, nothing prodigious but good. In his 4th grade class he had been working on adding up sequences of consecutive integers, starting from 1. One evening while he was absentmindedly watching TV, he turned to me and said, "I just figured out a shortcut for adding them up" and he clumsily described Gauss' formula for that sort of series ( = (n+1)(n+2)/2 ). I was flabbergassed and tried to give him a more systematic explanation but that was of no interest to him. Just a casual fit of inspiration/insight!

7:03 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Absolutely, it is about our conventions in representing a 3-D world on a 2-D page.

The story of your son and his insight demonstrates how one's understanding of abstract concepts can outstrip one's ability to explain.

As a teacher I find I have to be very careful in helping students find the words to explain their concepts.

7:26 AM  

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