When our three sons were growing up we homeschooled them. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day that our middle son, who was six years old at the time, opened his math workbook and saw subtraction problems. He said, “What is this?” I said something like, “Oh, Joshua, I need to explain. That’s subtraction. It’s a bit different from what you’ve been doing. Instead of making more, you take some away.”
And before I could say anything else or show him how it works, he spoke up and said something like, “What? I don’t understand. What do these people want? Who wrote this? I don’t know what these people were thinking. What do they expect? I’m going to bed!” And he did.
I followed and talked with him for a bit and saw that he really needed to calm down about it before we tried again.
A couple of days later I got out the felt board and the felt fish and felt seashells that we used to illustrate math lessons. I called Joshua and his little brother to come see something. Without using the word “subtraction” or saying anything at all about the day Joshua went to bed, I proceeded to illustrate subtraction. I showed them a group of five fish. While showing three fish swimming away from the others, I asked them, “If five fish are swimming along together and three swim away, how many are left?”
Joshua jumped up and said, “Where’s my math book! I want to do my math!” I was having fun with the felt, but he was already up and running to get his book.
I guess some of us just don’t always react with calmness to big changes that seem to be suddenly thrust upon us. Especially when we are young.