• Matthew Kaufman

Kids and Counting Cards

With the heat of the summer bearing down on us all and the looming approaching threat to kids’ freedom called the end of summer vacation, I began thinking about my childhood and about my life now. You see, during the summer, my family would get together during all the usual holidays and excuses for cookouts and for spending time together. Thinking of this, I was once again brought back to an anomaly displayed within my family that took myself and my siblings to adulthood to solve.

You see, despite neither of my parents being especially good at math, all three of their children all got degrees with majors in math (or in my case, a degree very closely related to mathematics). Isn’t that a bit odd? Neither of my parents were ever that interested in algebra or arithmetic, so how would turn out that all three children not only showed an interest, but went to make careers out of the field.

More interesting is that this is an effect that extends out of my immediate family as a number of my cousins went into business or mathematics fields as well. Even the ones who didn’t are all quite capable in the subject, despite none of our parents being mathematicians. This whole situation is even more astonishing when you take into account that my sister who now has a master’s degree in data analytics suffers from dyslexia. She’s not the only one, as my one cousin who just recently graduated with a degree in engineering also suffers from dyslexia as well.

Clearly, by now, it’s obvious that it’s just something in how we all were raised or

something we were taught. The answer is actually simple enough once we figured it out one day when talking about it. As you might have guessed from the title, it’s the card games my family would play at the aforementioned summer gatherings.

I would like to point this out now so there is no confusion, when I speak of my family’s card games, we aren’t talking about something simple like “Go Fish”. Sure, my family plays that with the kids when we are young. But the adults all play cards as well, but the games they play aren’t so simple. The games that you play in my family as you get older and want to become a big boy or girl, are card games that require complex calculations and relative risk assessment and taking. Even just scoring each round of a certain game, requires the concept of adding, multiplying, and subtracting large numbers in a fairly quick and efficient manner. It’s not uncommon for outsiders to my family to be confused and to struggle at first with the large amounts of mathematics involved.

Most importantly about this style of learning that I’ve talked about before, is the fact that it’s fun. Even though the kids will have a tough time with all the math and keeping track of everything, we generally assign one of the adults in the family to help them play. To the kids’, it’s a fun game and they get to play the same game as all the big adults with all the big adults. It lets them feel important. Not to mention that my family takes the games fairly seriously, causing the games to feel relatively competitive without anything really at stake. It’s so much of a game and fun to the kids, that it wasn’t until adulthood until we all realized how much math and such we were learning.

More than the learning being fun for us all though, was the timing of it. Remember how I mentioned how my family would get together over the summer holidays as well as many other times and we would play card games at these times. This was, unknowingly, keeping our arithmetic skills sharp as kids who were on winter break, summer break, or whatever other break we were on. It’s not a secret that if you don’t do something for a few months, you will get a bit rusty at it. This is why many schools have a very soft curriculum at the very beginning of a new year. The kids need time to re-adapt and to refresh their skills. But for my family members and I, we didn’t need that refreshing time. We had been counting cards occasionally throughout the summer and our skills were more than sharp enough still. This would give us the tiniest of head start at the beginning of each school year and those tiny head starts will add up over time. So if you’re the parent of a child who has to go back to school soon, if you’re a person who’s been messing up simple math a lot recently, or if you’re just looking for a way to kill some time, try striking up a friendly fun little card game.

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