Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Broken Magic

Folks often lament the loss of innocence and wonder in our children as they grow older. Things that once amazed them and caused their little imaginations to run wild or to gape in awe seem to now go unnoticed, unappreciated. The magic is gone. Some of this is natural. As we grow older and more mature, we start to ask questions of the world around us. We start to figure things out. Tricks and fancies are seen in the light. Our mind develops more complex, thorough, and logical patterns of processing information. Things that once confounded us or were held in reverence because they were not understood, are now seen for what they are. Nevertheless, the magic is gone.

The other day my little one was very excited to share with me a math website/game page that she had been shown by her teacher in school. The game instructed you to take any number between 10 and 99, add the numbers in the tens and ones place together, and then subtract this from the original number (e.g. if my number was 49, I would take 49 - (4+9) = 36). The page then listed the numbers from 1 to 100 with a symbol next to them. No matter what number you chose, the program always guessed what the symbol next to your answer would be. My daughter was completed amazed and excited by playing this game. It confounded her and excited her to show me. She somehow felt that the computer was reading her mind.

After showing me the website, she asked me how the program knew the symbol next to her answer. Without thinking too hard, I quickly discerned the mathematical trick and explained it to her. She looked at me slightly deflated. "Oh, is that all it is?" was her response. Without realizing it, I had taken away a piece of that childhood innocence and wonder. Part of me felt a bit sick inside, like I had taken something from her that I had no right to take, but part of me felt like she should understand that a bit of thought and reasoned analysis can be used to make sense of the world around her. However, I regretted the loss and what I had unwittingly taken.