[Squeakland] On Positional Notation

Blake blake at kingdomrpg.com
Wed Jun 6 23:57:26 PDT 2007

Alan Kay wrote:

"Most adult conventions and forms have huge QWERTY components which make
learning more difficult for children. However, eventually the conventions
need to be added in. It's imperative to start children thinking in the
strongest and most intuitive way -- then we can figure out how to merge
in the somewhat ad hoc conventions that adults have devised. Various ways
of thinking about numbers, lengths, directions, magnitudes etc is a ideal
way to <i>eventually </i>get to some of these conventions. But, e.g.
trying to get children started into real numeracy with positional
notation is really bad, even though it is a mainstream convention ... the
general result in America is that children don't get numerate, even
though they are forced to learn how to parrot a few of the

What do you suggest instead of positional notation? If you get them young  
enough you can teach them Instant Math[1] but by the time they're 3-4  
that's pretty much out, and can put a limit on the size of the numbers  
they can deal with. I've been experimenting with money--kids understand  
and like money intuitively it seems--and it seems to be pretty good at  
bridging the gap between quantities and digital representation of said  


[1] http://www.iahp.org/

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