Dominoes and Dice

Dice at Narrabeen Beach

I’ve been subscribing to Seth’s email for a while now because I like the way he thinks outside the proverbial box. Today he advertised his new book and the link caught my eye so I thought I would share it with here.

Dominoes and dice seem to be everywhere I look this week, even on Narrabeen beach!

In Kindergarten we’ve been discussing the many different ways to represent numbers so we have played games with pictures, dots, numerals and words. The children are ready to move beyond rote counting and use one to one correspondence. Some can see a group of dots and know, just by looking that the number is five. There are others who already know how to work with the facts of ten to produce more complex equations. Children develop at a different pace but all eventually go through the same stage, building on the foundation of prior learning.

After a week of games and activities I decided it was time to discover what the children have learned and I handed out cards with different number representations. I told the children to find a friend with the same number. It is always entertaining to watch what they do. Some children who were holding the word one, two and six grouped themselves with the children who held a card with three dots or the numeral three. Children holding a word card that said four or five positioned themselves in the group of four and children holding the card that said three put themselves with the children holding cards that represented five. Even though they were wrong, they weren’t really wrong. They had drawn conclusions based on the knowledge they had and were able to explain their rationale for being in the group they were in.

They showed me that they had counted the letters in the word and discovered they had three, or four or five. I smiled and told them that they were correct and reminded them that the card they held was also the word name for a number. It’s confusing but eventually it will make sense.

Sometimes in life it is necessary to explain how you got the answer you have in your head. It enables the other person to see your point of view. It shows that you have thought about the situation and with all the knowledge you have, the decision you have made is the best decision under the circumstances. Sometimes you are not completely right but in your justification you feel satisfied with the answer you gave.

The Bible tells us that by our words we are justified and by our words we are condemned. (Matthew 12: 24 – 27) I’m such a words person, not really a numbers person and I’ve been tossing all this around in my head. The other day my Bible reading was about Abraham when God asked him to take his son Isaac to the mountain and to sacrifice him. (Genesis 22) As I read the story I was trying to imagine what went on in Abraham’s head. Even when Isaac questioned him about the fact that they had the fire and the wood but no lamb for the burnt offering, Abraham seemed unflappable simply answering that God would provide. In a matter of verses, God did just that; an angel of the Lord appeared and said ‘do not lay a hand on the boy.’ There in the thicket was a ram for the altar.

I am discovering that first and foremost God demands our obedience. Even when I am not completely sure why He has me on a certain path, I can hear that he is asking me to trust Him, accept His word and move forward. I know that often I am afraid but I feel Him nudge me forward into faith. Sometimes He wants us to take a ‘leap into the dark, a spontaneous, unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience.’ (Henry Miller) It’s like the kids with the number words trying to explain to me that the word six says three. They haven’t got much to go on and even though their explanation makes sense to me, it wouldn’t necessarily make sense to anyone else.

Sometimes when the children don’t know what to do I hear them asking the child next to them to do it for them. I watch them lean across and write the answer on someone else’s page. Other times when a child is still trying to work out what to record the child next to them leans over and begins to write. They think this is okay. It worked last time. But just like adults sometimes all they want in front of them is a blank page.

There is nothing quite like a blank page. At first you may stare at it, wondering what to write yet it’s emptiness is somewhat refreshing. There is scope for a thousand possibilities or nothing at all. Though you may feel the pressure of the eyes and activity around you, knowing that you are supposed to be recording like everyone else you are enjoying the moment. Your inactivity makes others uncomfortable but for you it is that poignant pause, that musical rest, the silence you’ve craved for so long.

This week when I sent the children to the various activity tables to practise the writing of numbers I discover one little guy sobbing into the crook of his folded arm. His tears are quiet under the conversation and activity of the room so by the time I discover he is crying his page is soaking wet. “What’s wrong?” I finally ask him and he mutters something about the little girl beside him who stares back at me wide eyed. “I was just trying to help,” she explains, “he didn’t know what to do so I did some for him.” I look at the marks she’s innocently made on his page and I hear his little voice anguishing that he wanted to do it his way not her way.

How often in life do people lean across our table and assume they know what needs to be done to fix our problem? How often do we stand speechless not knowing how to defend ourselves as we stare at the marks they have made without permission on our page? When the tears have subsided and time has passed we think about the thousand wonderful things we could have said but maybe our silence is better. Maybe sometimes we have no words to offer, no explanation, nothing to say.

When it comes to your turn to put the next tile down in the game of dominoes, you look at your hand and there is no match. Surprisingly, missing a go isn’t as bad as you thought. You sit back and watch to see who’ll win. There is a crazy maze, a path in front of you on the floor. You don’t know what comes next. The teacher hasn’t rung the bell nor told you to change tables, so you wait and you wonder and you have no words.

You think about Abraham and his willingness to walk the mountain with His son, weighing up the cost it might involve to sacrifice everything but your faith walk has never disappointed you before. You wonder what to say about all the thoughts going on in your head but like Publilius Syrus said, ‘I have often regretted my speech but never my silence’ and you decide to say nothing at all.

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