So I wonder…What's your fear?
Do you have one? Is there one thing you can't bear?
Is it sharks? You're underwater, deep below. Above you the glistening lid of the sea. And here it comes. Big ol' teeth, flat eyes, rushing towards you. Are you afraid?
What about falling? You're by an open door. A grinning man shouts in your ear. The wind rushes and rushes and rushes in. You're supposed to jump and fall, from this incredible, spine-shrinking height. Your whole life hangs on the pull of a cord. Are you afraid?
Or is it flight? Or open spaces? Or small ones? Or heights. Or the deep, hollow dark. Or mice. Or spiders, the fast-as-a-flash, long-legged and hairy kind?
What are you afraid of?
And I wonder…How does your fear feel?
For me, fear feels like a shiver. My whole body goes cold. It feels impossible to catch a breath. If I let it, it cripples me.
For my girl, fear brings a weeping, wide eyed, squeaking, whole-body panic.
Ah, what could she be so afraid of?
Some time around the end of last year,
I realised my girl's fear of maths had grown.
Grown so much bigger than
the thing she was afraid of.
It had become debilitating.
She wasn't avoiding maths because she wasn't interested
or because it was too hard.
She was avoiding maths
(and ALL maths games and anything to do with maths)
had become something huge in her mind.
the kind of fear that would start her
crying if you even raised the subject,
panicking if she tried it, and
left her overcome in the face of it.
The kind of fear that
—if you fed it and nurtured it and gave it space to grow—
could overtake you and
sweep you out from under your feet.
The kind of fear that could, without mercy, take you down.
And because I know how this fear feels and
how it can swallow you whole
if you let it,
I can't bear to watch that happen to my girl.
I can help her face what she is so afraid of.
ever so gently,
with love and kindness and care
(and in no rush whatsoever),
my girl and I are doing maths
Zeus on the Loose maths
Family Math maths.
And, just newly and this last week:
Because a friend of mine gave me such a gift the other day.
She told me she was telling the story of threes to her girls…
fairies carrying jewels in groups of threes
to a secret place in fairy land.
My friend tells her beautiful girls maths stories.
This is how they learn and love to learn.
So I tried it.
I asked my daughter how she might buy a kitten
if a kitten was 10 dollars and she only had 6.
She said, I'd go home and get more money!
I said, Do you know how much you'd need?
She said, without hesitating, Four dollars.
We talked about having a party. What if we had 8 cupcakes but 11 friends were coming? How many more would we need for everyone to have a delicious cupcake?
Three, of course.
We talked about eating oranges and feeding guests and buying animals.
We talked about numbers like they were our friends.
We even talked about the colour of numbers
and she said her 5 was always, always red
(my five is always green).
And just yesterday,
we talked about adding 9s.
We were doing some Mathsbuddy addition, and at some point the question was
9 plus 5.
Oh! she said. I don't know that!
Her eyes widened. Her eyebrows and voice went
Well, I said, Imagine a little animal slides on over from the 5
to help the 9 become a 10
(and I gestured with my hand,
an animal sliding along and straightening up beside the 9 like a soldier).
Oh! she said. A penguin! A penguin slides over!
Yes! I said.
A penguin slides over to help the 9 become a 10,
(and I gestured again with my hand)
and then all you need to do is add the rest of the penguins....
Yes! Yes it is!
Yep, it is! Now,
what about 9 plus 6? A penguin slides on over
(and I gestured with my hand again)
and makes the 9 a ten. What have we got all up?
We were so pleased.
Then we checked out our Penguin Theory with a whole bunch of numbers. It worked every time.
Then I asked, Hey, do you want to draw it, our Theory?
Sure! she said.
So my girl drew our Penguin Theory.
And it looked great.
And when she did some more Mathsbuddy addition later,
9 plus Something
and she knew the answer,
just like that.
Her theory stayed in her head AND it made sense.
not for a
was my beautiful girl afraid.