My youngest is really good at counting. He can’t figure out colors for the life of him, but counting is something he’s been solid at for a while. And he loves to count. I’ll often find him going through items and listing off how many items he’s gone through up to that point. Now, he’s two, so I’m pretty sure he can’t quite make it to twenty, but I can say for certain he’s solid up to 14.
And he loves to verify his knowledge of quantities. He’ll look at me during mealtime and point at his food and tell me, I have two broccolis. And he’ll repeatedly tell me until I verify that yes, he does have two broccolis. Then he’ll eat one and ask me how many he has left…because, I think he thinks I need help with my numbers.
So, yesterday, we were sitting around doing whatever we were doing on a rainy day to keep the kids busy, and he holds up his hand to me and asks how many fingers he’s holding up. He opened and closed his fingers constantly so as to make the number impossible to tell correctly before it would change again.
Which I relayed to him the insurmountable task he had given me, and he finally held up two fingers and said, “is this two fingers, dada?”
I counted to verify. Counted again, just to make sure he wasn’t tricking me. And yes, they most certainly were just two.
Then he opened his hand completely and said, “is this four fingers, dada?”
And my response was a stammered one.
Because, of course, like Pluto, the thumb is in a weird place. It’s sort of a finger, but sort of not. Just look at Mirriam-Webster’s take. “Each of the five…” and “especially: one other than the thumb”.
This is because the thumb is quite different than the rest of the fingers. In fact, many animals have fingers, but so few have these wondrous opposable appendages we call thumbs.
Ultimately, because I didn’t want to get in a huge debate with him over the difference between thumbs and fingers, and I definitely didn’t want to get the question wrong and thereby prove his theory that my math skills are lacking, I told him, No…but I may have put a bit of a question mark at the end of that, in case he was caught up on his phalanges classifications.
He looked at his hand and realized he had held up more than he had intended and worked those digits until he could get just four up, and tested me yet again.
I’m happy to say I passed.
But the question remains, at what point do we teach our children the reality here? Should we press on under the false pretense that they have ten fingers when, in reality, there are only eight? Schools teach we only have 8 planets now, even though Pluto is a dwarf planet…I mean, it still has the word planet in its classification. We don’t generally refer to our thumb as a thumb finger, do we?
In the end, I was too tired to go over toe science at that point, especially with the other two kids in hearing distance, which would mean I would have to go into great details about how the thumb isn’t exactly a finger, but the big toe is still a toe, even though they both have only two phalanges, while the rest of our digits have three. And then, inevitably, this would bring us to the necessary discussion about the old episode of the Dick van Dyke show where everyone lost their thumbs and couldn’t even do things as simple as typing.
So, I’ve decided to go about continuing the false premise of the ten finger theory. But I’ve also chosen to keep them under the faith that Pluto is still a planet as well 🙂
Have fun out there!