His teacher told me that math is not his strong suit. He loves to buy things, so I thought money would come naturally. I thought wrong.
The first night I pulled out the coins we both ended up in tears. He couldn’t remember which was the dime, nickel, or quarter to save his life.
“If it’s the smallest,” I said, “It’s a dime, the biggest is a quarter and the nickel is in between.” Then I held up the dime. “This is the smallest, what is it?”
He just couldn’t get it. I tried every type of learning method I could think of and nothing. Wrong more than 50% of the time.
“I can’t do it,” he said. “It’s too hard. I’m not smart enough.”
Those words. Those 4 words, I’m not smart enough, pierce your heart with an icicle. Because seeing your child struggle is torture. Because seeing him doubt himself is worse. And because, for an instant, part of you wonders if he will ever get it and you are so deeply ashamed of yourself for doubting him.
I looked him squarely in the eye.
“You know the name of every single Pokémon, their powers, if they are grass, water, air, or fire type, and what they evolve to,” I fired back. “Don’t you tell me you can’t learn.”
I mean seriously, this kid has a freaking Ph.D. in the biological classification system of Pokémon. That’s biology, physiology, and evolution (yeah, it’s make believe, so what, those are difficult concepts). It is true that he might not have any natural mathematical ability, but knowing all those damned Pokémon means he can learn. It just took practice and interest.
He studies Pokémom day in and day out. Pours over his Pokédex, watches shows, reads the Pokémon dictionary (there are two in case you are wondering), and spends hours drawing them and planning battles.
So we talk about this. That if he knows the difference between Pikachu and Turtwig, he can learn the difference between a dime and a quarter.
And so ever day we practice the coins, just naming them, for 5 minutes. Today he correctly identified all the change in my pocket. Tomorrow, we will start working on the number of pennies in a nickel.
It’s no gym battle, but it’s a start.