While grabbing arms-full of books at the close-out sale of our local Borders bookstore (RIP, Bloomington Borders), Willow asked me many questions about determining the price of a book at 40% off and at 60% off.
When a child asks questions about a particular topic, I take it as my responsibility to give her the tools to know more about that topic, whether it be peanut butter or Tibet (And guess what's on our to-do list for next week? Homemade peanut butter!). When a child asks a skills-based question, such as Will's questions about percentages, I take it as my responsibility to introduce her to the skills that she needs to solve such problems herself.
And that's why we've been sitting at the living room table lately, using our Cuisenaire rods to learn how to multiply. No, Willow doesn't know how to add or subtract two-digit numbers yet, or graph, or whatever there is on the first-grade institutionalized school curriculum--she's not interested in addition, subtraction, or graphing.
She's interested in multiplication and division, so that's what's up with us.
Cuisenaire rods take a little time to get used to, but they are perfect for all kinds of computational and other math concepts. We always start, when we play with them, by putting them into their stair-steps; this helps the girls remember what color is what length, which is important:
And then Will will be able to calculate sale prices all by herself.