Learning the Quantity Three
Last weekend’s experiment with the Find Your Name Game really got the former Psychology major in me thinking, and poor little Jenna(31m) is just along for the ride! Could I use Discrete Trial Teaching, (which is normally used as part of the ABA method of helping children with Autism), to help my neurotypical two year old learn the quantity three? Short answer: No, at least not yet.
We’ve done four trials so far, of about 12 questions each. I ask Jenna to hand me the quantity one, two or three. Sometimes I vary my speech. “Give me three. Give me the card that has two dots on it.” etc. Always by the third try I do whatever it takes to make sure she gets the right answer, even if it means handing her the card to give to me. After four separate five minute sessions with this activity, Jenna’s mastery has gone from 50% to 50%. She knows one and two, but she still doesn’t know three.
But here is the crazy part! By trial three, Jenna was pretending to be a puppy. She arffed, she wagged her tail, and she picked up each card with her teeth. I’ve never led a math activity before that involved so much slobber. It made me really sad, because if either of the boys I had done ABA therapy with back in college had suddenly started to become Rover it would have been a Hallelujah moment for their whole families. Learning to do Pretend Play was a big goal for both of them.
Okay. Melancholy aside, the teacher in me didn’t want to give up. What about adding in a hands-on, Constrcutivst component? Could Jenna put three raisins in each muffin tin? Once again, yes and no. Half way through the activity Jenna started to hover her hand over the muffin tin, pretend to put the third raisin in, wait for my eye contact, snatch the raisin up to her mouth, gobble it up and giggle. She was openly mocking me! There wasn’t any clear indication that she knew what three was either. Jenna was just tricking me over and over again, until she finally ate all of the raisins holus-bolus.
It was time to bring out the big guns. This picture looks rather gross, but I am holding three chocolate chips in my hand. In this new strategy, I showed Jenna my hand and asked her how many chocolate chips I was holding. If she could tell me the right answer by the third try, she got to eat the chocolate chips. If she couldn’t, I ate the candy instead. (I’m mean and I love chocolate!) We played this over and over again, and it was the same outcome as before. Jenna understands the quantities one and two, but she does not recognize three.
Have I run into some type of Piaget developmental brick wall? Would Jenna’s brother Bruce have been able to do this at 31 months? I wish I knew. If you have a two year old, please give it a try and let me know what happens!