You know how they say there are no stupid questions? Except there are and my not yet 6 year old just explained to me what makes a question a stupid one.
Here’s the story…
We were doing some schoolwork. I read him a story and then asked him a few questions about it. Why did I do that? Well, because the language development book I’m using told me to do just that. My son, who was pretty interested in the story, became distracted and uncooperative during our little Q&A. I asked him what was wrong and here’s the conversation we had:
Me: Honey, what’s wrong? You don’t seem to like this work?
Him: No, I don’t like it.
Him: It’s because of the questions. They are boring and silly.
Me: Why is that?
Him: Because you already know the answers to all of them. So why are you asking me?
Me: Why do you think I do this?
Him: You know the answer already, so you just want to test me if I know it. It is boring and silly.
Me (trying to hide my dismay): I see your point.
As serendipity would have it, I saw Beau Lotto and Amy O’Toole’s TED video later that same day. It is about science education, but I’m wondering (and this time I do NOT know the answer) if it is possible to teach math to young children through a similar play-based hands-on process without asking “stupid questions”.
My kid hates the canned questions too. I think the definition of a stupid question is one where the adult present is not really present in the learning experience, if you know what I mean. You can certainly know the sum of 5 plus 17 is while you’re helping your child discover and develop strategies for solving multi-digit addition, but the crucial thing is to not just be waiting for the answer; it’s important for the adult to be *part* of the child’s learning process, not outside it. Does that make sense?