Parenting Gone Awry, School, Snips And Snails

Who Knew Tally Marks To Be Such A Comprehensive Subject?

AD and I are both creative types, so it is not so surprising that Sean is creatively bent as well.  AD is creative in a money-making, problem-solving, making-the-world-more-functional kind of way.  Whereas I don’t know how to do any of that; I just seem to need to swim upstream.

Having been upstream a time or two, I know that insisting upon doing everything your own creative way can make life harder than it has to be.  And I don’t want that for Sean.  I want him to understand that sometimes, in certain matters, it’s better to just go along — even if you do know of a prettier way to do things.

Recently, I wrote about how I tried to teach Sean how to make tally marks and how I was met with some resistance.  The resistance wasn’t willful disobedience; it was just that he knew deep down in his heart that his way was better.

The next day, we had another tally mark homework assignment, and again, he wanted to make tally marks in his own way, in groups of six.

And once again I tried to explain to him that where we are located in the time and space continuum it is universally accepted that tally marks are made in groups of five; four vertical lines with one diagonal line cutting cross the group of four.

On another planet, I told him, it could work differently, but here on Earth, someone, somewhere, long, long ago, maybe even God, decided that this is how tally marks should be made.  Enough people agreed and thus it became a convention, meaning that’s just how we do it.

I could tell from his glazed over expression that my dissertation on tally mark norms and conventions had fatigued his spirit.  And that as a creative person he did not much esteem norms and conventions.

He twisted his mouth and looked up to the left, as though he was giving the matter thoughtful consideration. He tapped his pencil on the counter.  Then he shook his head.  I had failed to persuade him.  No, he said, he was going to go with groups of six.  He said that six was a nicer number than five.

I told him that would be fine, but that IT WAS WRONG! And then I pulled all my hair out in one clump.

No not really.

I smiled and gave no indication I cared one whit. I just told him that he probably wouldn’t find that many people who would be willing to change over to his system.

“That’s okay,” he said, “I like it better this way.”

Whatever dude. Jump in and swim upstream.

Sometimes in life, you need to be creative and other times you just need to follow the rules.  And the wisdom is in knowing the difference.

How to teach that? I have no idea.  Maybe he’ll figure it out on his journey upstream.

33 thoughts on “Who Knew Tally Marks To Be Such A Comprehensive Subject?

  1. Have you tried explaining that it’s easier to count the groups by fives, whereas he’ll have to be extra good with his 6 timetables?

    Also, because most people know how to count by fives, he won’t be able to use his tallies in shared situations the way everyone else will – or, at least, in shared situations where everyone else is not real good with their 6 timetables, lol.

    * * * *
    Well, he’s only five, so we haven’t gotten to times tables just yet, so he doesn’t care about all that. He just wants to do his own creative thing! 🙂

  2. What if…Sean is really right and the rest of us have been wrong all along? He could be clearing a huge mistake the world has been making for a very long time. He may be on to something. Just sayin’

  3. I remember being VERY confused by this when I was learning – because I thought that it should be a little group of 5 hash marks with another mark “bundling” them together – I thought of the extra mark as the shoestring that held it all together. Took me a while to understand why that wasn’t right.

  4. I can appreciate someone who’s willing to march to the beat of his own drum. Maybe it will all click with him when he begins counting by fives while learning to tell time….not to assume he doesn’t already know how to tell time.

  5. You’re such a good mama. I know that if this were me and my little girl, we’d both end up crying because I’d be telling her the way it was supposed to be done and she’d be doing the same. I get SO frustrated when it’s not done “right” or you know…my way.

  6. I still haven’t learned to follow the rules. My poor mother died, still frustrated with that fact.

    Good luck.

    * * * *
    Sigh. Yeah, me neither. At least Sean and I are cut from the same cloth, so even though it’s maddening, I get it. I get it.

  7. When my daughter was in third grade she had a wonderful teacher who was wonderfully creative. She was the one who caught my daughter’s ADD (not to suggest Sean has this). Her approach early on, when Em a blond haired green eyed girl did a self portrait that looked like Cleopatra, was to allow her to be creative in certain things while not giving allowances in others. Math for example did have one answer, however Em did not have to answer the questions in order. If she wanted to jump around from #3 to #9 and then #1 that was fine, but there could only be one correct answer. Perhaps Sean could be in control of what he tallies and in what order, however follow the rules and tally in fives. Or do both and turn them in and explain his logic to the teacher. I have found with both of my children that having something explained to them by someone that is not their parent makes all the difference. The window in which we are all knowing is far too small.

  8. The math teacher in me thinks he’s creating a hard row to hoe, but at the same time, I admire his creativity. If he can learn to tally six at a time and still get the right answer, YAHOO!! 🙂 I foresee some other child telling him he’s doing it wrong…and Sean telling that child it is just his way. 🙂 Thanks for the smile.

    This is a cute picture of tally marks.

    The poem I use to teach my first graders about tally marks goes:

    “Five friends were walking, they were walking straight and tall.
    One of them was leaning and he began to fall.
    The other four caught him,
    Before he touched the ground.
    So from now on, When you mark tallies
    Make the fifth one lying down.”

    I love that you don’t tell Sean he is wrong. The world will convince him otherwise in this case. (Also love that he has such a strong opinion!)

    * * * *
    Oh I can’t wait to tell him that little poem in the morning. He will love it!

  10. You are getting practice early. This is exactly what it is like to have teenagers and sometimes after explaining your knowledge, you just have to watch them go with their take on it. The results vary. But I guess it’s always good to learn early. Or not.

  11. Oh, and p-l-e-a-s-e let us know his reaction to the poem!

    * * * * * *

    Update: He loved it! He asked me if I made it up. After a moments hesitation, I confessed that no I had not. He said, let’s make one of our own! and ran to get some paper. It’s 6:45 am. Before coffee.

  12. Heh. I could/can be like that sometimes with work and school. But I nod and agree with what everyone else says, then proceed to do it my own way, which is what I’m fastest and most efficient at. Very passive/aggressive of me, I’m sure!

    It’s good to know the conventional way, but if one is actually better at getting it right using another way, who are we to stop them? 😉

  13. ROFL!!

    He will change his mind once he hits the multiplication tables. Counting by 5s is SO MUCH EASIER than counting by 6s! 😉

    I am so fond of Sean.

  14. When I was in the 2nd grade, I got counted off because I drew happy faces on all my capitol letters. I remember being shocked and upset that it wasn’t ok. I mean after all it made the paper happy.

  15. Sean is thinking outside the box. A great skill to have. Best of all he stuck to his guns.

    As long as he doesn’t try anything dangerous, he will develop the judgment to know when and when not to do it.

    Accompanying him on the road less traveled will be a joyous time for you.

    I’m proud of him.

  16. One of my kids had the same problem. As simple as the concept seems to “adults”, it’s a hard one to grasp when you’re young. I hope his teacher is as gentle as you are! I think 5 year olds can count by “5’s.” I’d check that out!!!!

    It reminds me of an illustration that the pastor gave yesterday in Sunday school, where people say you have your truth and I have mine. He said, “That concept doesn’t work so well when you’re out collecting mushrooms…….This one is poisonous for you, but not for me.”

    * * *
    He can count by fives. He doesn’t multiply yet.

  17. I have been thinking about Sean and his tallys. Here’s an idea for you. Let him make his tallys his way at home. Count everything you can by sixes. Mark up papers after paper with tallys by six.

    Then explain to him that there is a “kindergarten way” to make tallys and that when he’s at school and doing homework he has to do it the “kindergarten way” so that his teacher can understand them. But of course, because you understand him already so you can do it the six way at home!

  18. WOW what great ideas! I loved the poem and since your baby boy is so creative it looks like that might just do the trick to convince him.
    I love how you phrase it swimming upstream. It is less negative then… they have to learn the hard way. Sometimes swimming upstream can be the right way for people although others are screaming no do it my way. Just think of all of the inventions, books, painting, photographs ect. that we would not have if everyone did things the same way.
    Sean is adorable and very lucky to have a mommy and daddy that love him and are willing to let him swim upstream.

  19. Try this on him:

    Tallys were used to keep track of how many things, like sheep or fish or loaves of bread, were being counted when you ran out of fingers and toes to count on. Each set of tallys is a drawing of a counting hand; since most everybody has a hand, and most hands have four fingers and a thumb, that’s why tallys have 5 lines (4 up and one across for a full hand).

    It’s not wrong to count by 6’s (or 2’s, or 8’s, or 16’s), just different. Maybe he found the math gene in your family. 🙂

  20. I’m with Kathy – I got taught tallys by counting on my fingers. One tally was one hand. In fact, a tally was a fist. The fifth tally crosses the fingers.

    Unless, of course, you hit like a girl. In that case, your thumb is inside your fist, and begging to get broken.


  21. Love this! At least Sean will not be a follower.

    I always said my son marched to the beat of a different drummer. Now his son is the same.(with a little stubbornness thrown in) Learning to tie his shoes he thought his way was just as good, just different. We let him go with those laces a knotted mess.
    I’m betting it’s kids like these that are going to change the world…

  22. I love your reaction to his creative math. Why not? Why fight about something as silly as tiny lines on a page? Let ’em swim upstream–I totally agree:)

  23. “. . .someone, somewhere, long, long ago, maybe even God. . .” Priceless, that is.

    I, like Sean, agree that some numbers are “nicer” than others. For example, I prefer evens over odds, and when I was a child, I assigned each number 0-10 a gender, age, personality, and familial place based on their position on the number line. Go figure.

  24. Oh my gooooodness, this sounds like my conversations with my middle one in regard to Math! Every. day. Today being one of them. I laughed out loud at your way of telling this story, and that’s a good thing today.

    We need to find a time for that meeting, girl!

  25. Great poem! And I’m with Bug (and Sean) – I used to think there should be five marks with one holding them together.

    Come to think of it, I STILL think it should be like that. Tell Sean that if he decides to change it, for the whole world, I for one will be glad. 🙂

  26. Ahhh, it’s a metaphor for life. We all like to do things “our” way. And, I still do. I actually vaguely remember my daughter doing it Sean’s way back in preschool and then she quickly switched when it was taught in school. So, don’t worry.

  27. I smiled all the way through this post. A psychologist once introduced me to a group with the words, “She turns everything upside down and somehow it all lands in exactly the right place.” However, my math teachers never appreciated my unique gift.

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