While the moment looked quite ordinary, it felt momentous to me. Today, my son took his first step to mastering division.
I don't know why I felt apprehensive as I sat on the floor of his room waiting for him to finish up a language lesson he was working on. Perhaps it was because I remembered division from when I was in school. In fact, forget division - what I likely remember most acutely was my difficulty with doing any math operation fast. We would have timed tests that would give me fits. I didn't know my math facts cold, and it seemed that my brain froze when I was up against the clock. For some reason, I didn't develop a dislike of math and went on to do algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus quite well. I just disliked doing 100 questions in 5 minutes or less.
Anyway, while multiplication felt quite intuitive to me, there was something about division that seemed a little more daunting. My default is to figure out the answer a division problem by using multiplication. But I wasn't sure that logic would help my son to understand the concept.
I decided that I would try a Waldorf approach to introducing division. My beloved book, The Waldorf Book of Poetry, had a poem that I read to my son. It is intended to be read in a classroom, where the students are the "manipulatives" that move around to form different group sizes and demonstrate multiplication and division. Since we didn't have 12 students in our classroom, we simply used some beads and moved them with our hands into different group sizes.
After that, I read Nicholas a story that illustrates how to do division from Understanding Waldorf Education. It describes what each of the three numbers in a long division problem mean. It is simple, yet brilliant.
Lastly, we tried some division problems on our own. And he did it! In fact, the page of division he did today was completed faster than any other math page he has done this year. I was amazed. Rationally, I know that he has been doing division in his head for about a year now. He's had exposure through simple division in verbal problems we would do while doing dishes, as well as solving equations in his Life of Fred books. He tends to naturally pick up new concepts.
Still, even with all that...Nicholas' achievement today feels special.