# Mumsnet Talk

## DH wants to teach our DS set theory. DS is 17mo.

(95 Posts)
Sun 18-Nov-12 17:18:22

His exact message:
"Should I teach DS about sets or jump straight in to counting?"

Personally I don't understand why DH isn't happy with teaching DS to count like everybody else, but then my grasp of mathematics is - as he cheerfully informs me - minimal.

I think he's mad. He thinks I don't understand.

HumphreyCobbler Sun 18-Nov-12 17:19:56

sorry, I know that isn't helpful

what exactly was he wanting to teach him?

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:21:37

Are you married to Sheldon Cooper?

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:24:44

As far as I could understand it, he wants to teach DS (DS1, btw) about set theory. We got DS1 some magnetic numbers to go on the fridge and DH was musing over this as we watched DS1 play with attempt to eat the numbers.

DH is currently trying to force some dinner down DS1's neck so he will probably reproach me for the sceptical tone of my posts in a bit!!

bitsofmeworkjustfine Sun 18-Nov-12 17:25:23

whats a set?

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:25:30

Smile and nod and let him get on with it!
Sneakily and subversively teach normal counting (and explain to DH the term PFB!....)

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:25:44

Goldplated - oh, I wish

lottiegarbanzo Sun 18-Nov-12 17:26:12

Well really, good luck to him either way! Your DS will only cooperate for as long as he wants to.

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:26:46

Surely the only logical sensible way of teaching numbers to a toddler is by teaching them one to ten.

Once they have mastered that, go higher.

HumphreyCobbler Sun 18-Nov-12 17:28:43

there is counting and there is counting. Lots of children can say onetwothreefourfive etc but not be able to give you four beans.

CecilyP Sun 18-Nov-12 17:29:32

Quite right your DH; you are never to young to learn set theory. What does he expect your DS to do with that knowledge? Are you sure he isn't winding you up?

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:29:51

pepperrabbit - we've got DS2 (4mo) coming up fast behind! DH is well aware of MN terminology; I suggested to him that we ask the MN jury and he happily agreed because he believes in the wisdom of crowds except when they think he's wrong, I suspect.

HumphreyCobbler Sun 18-Nov-12 17:30:27

sorry, should have said lots of toddlers rather than children

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:31:30

Goldplated - I totally agree with your viewpoint. DH however does not!

CecilyP - sadly, I am sure he isn't. Life would be dull if he didn't take these things seriously though

HanSolo Sun 18-Nov-12 17:31:34

Basic set theory is very simple, and fundamental to the understanding of many areas of mathematics, great thing to start off with.

bitsofmeworkjustfine Sun 18-Nov-12 17:31:41

whats set theory?

Just play games, count steps, let him sort toys. These are the foundations for mathematical thinking.

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:32:06

Could someone explain set theory

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:32:52

bitsofme - I'd explain it if I could!!

MMMarmite Sun 18-Nov-12 17:33:19

Oooh that sounds so fun! [maths geek alert] Let him start with set theory, and then report back on his innovative teaching methods

HumphreyCobbler Sun 18-Nov-12 17:33:27

yes, I keep thinking venn diagrams

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:36:06

DH is jumping up and down with excitement and says that humphreycobbler and aboutlastnight 'get it'. Make of that what you will

UptoapointLordCopper Sun 18-Nov-12 17:37:18

Definitely teach him set theory. Report back please.

alistron1 Sun 18-Nov-12 17:37:41

Children who are mathematically very gifted do tend to move on from counting to 'sorting' very quickly - i.e noticing patterns, counting in 10's, differentiating between odd and even numbers. Has your DH been reading stuff about maths geniuses

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:41:47

alistron1 - he says he hasn't read such things but that sorting is more basic than counting.

Uptoapoint - oh, I'm not sure I get any input into the matter!

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:42:40

Tell your DH to do some research into play schema. Schema often involve sorting and grouping objects, seeking out shared characteristics. If you and your DH can tailor the learning opportunities you give your child, so that they build on and develop your DS's current schema of choice then your DS will think you are fabulous (and you'll be working with his interests instead of against them IYSWIM).

My DS went through a phase of lining things up - lines and rows appeared everywhere. I followed his lead and also started to line things up by colour, or size etc. Hours of fun .

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:43:59

What is set theory?

CecilyP Sun 18-Nov-12 17:47:46

Basic set theory is very simple, and fundamental to the understanding of many areas of mathematics, great thing to start off with.

Do you think a 17 month old would have the language skills and logical thought processes to be able to cope though? I think he may even have trouble drawing a Venn diagram.

CecilyP Sun 18-Nov-12 17:51:04

I would just agree and just let your DH get on with it. Then you can either stand back and be impressed or amused - whichever is most appropriate.

HumphreyCobbler Sun 18-Nov-12 17:55:58

piprabbit has got it spot on imo

that is what I tried to do with my DS

Sun 18-Nov-12 17:57:20

CecilyP - I probably will I'm not averse to it, it's just that since I am not a mathematician myself I find the whole idea a bit incomprehensible!

UptoapointLordCopper Sun 18-Nov-12 17:59:37

Personally I favour geometry. Parallel lines and perpendicular lines and shapes are everywhere.

Sun 18-Nov-12 18:00:21

Children can pick up all sorts of "complicated" things - let your DH have a go, so long as he's a reasonably patient person who isn't going to lose his temper if DS doesn't "get it".

CecilyP Sun 18-Nov-12 18:09:03

Herrena; if your DH is able to present it in a way that is understandable to a baby, you might as well sit in as it shouldn't be incomprehensible to an adult.

KittiesInsane Sun 18-Nov-12 18:17:01

Wonder what your DH would have made of DS1? His version of counting, say, five cars in a row was to point at each one and say, very earnestly 'One... one... one... one... one'.

Which was true enough. Each car was indeed one car. Had me a bit stumped for a while!

MMMarmite Sun 18-Nov-12 18:17:01

Alternatively you could teach him practical calculus and parabolic trajectories (throwing his toys across the room).

Sun 18-Nov-12 18:26:23

Isn't set theory at toddler level just 'put all the red things together'?

Not that tricky- probably easier than 1-1 correspondance (sp?).

DeWe Sun 18-Nov-12 18:52:54

He's setting his sights a bit low. I expect him to be going for solving Navier-Stokes wave equations.

Or maybe if he starts early enough they can work out the reasoning behind Fermat's last theorem.

They can be very interesting to discuss with a child whose speech is at the "daddy, boo" stage

Sun 18-Nov-12 18:53:14

We started DD on sets/numbers at about that age, mostly just playing and repetition but it did work. ELC have some coloured blocks with numbers/letters on them that are well used, when she stopped gnawing everything in sight we got a few pairs/matching games too which are very popular.

Sun 18-Nov-12 19:34:23

Actually I think your DH has a point - counting and understanding sets can really go hand in hand and Venn diagrams are a good place to start, They can also be explained in terms a very young child will understand. As long as your DS is enjoying it, it doesn't really matter that he is getting a head start on mathematical concepts and theory - it just has to be fun.

Sun 18-Nov-12 20:29:08

DH is pretty patient, so I don't think he will get frustrated. I don't see any reason not to give it a go; I will be doing all the generic '5 little ducks' songs and stuff like that, so I assume he'll at least pick up the names of the numbers from me.

RugBugs - nice to hear that someone else has already tried this!

I will keep you all posted - if DH is successful with DS1 there will undoubtedly be some crowing

bitsofmeworkjustfine Sun 18-Nov-12 20:31:46

i think that you are all being 'up yourselves'

You all talk about sharing it with a child 17 months old, but none of you will expalin it to me!

Sun 18-Nov-12 21:04:50

I'm totally not an expert, but basically set theory is about how things can be grouped together. The example of that most people have seen at school would be Venn diagrams - like this - but there's a lot of complicated maths involved too in how you can study all the possibilities.

Sun 18-Nov-12 21:12:10

The participants in this discussion are divided into two sets: those who know what set theory is, and those who do not.

Does that help? (it also provides a rigourous enough to be getting on with definition of "two" "one" and "addition")

Sun 18-Nov-12 22:26:07

nowt wrong with learning about sets. DH can call it what he likes, the skill is fundamentally useful and a mathematical skill that your/ any DC will use for life.

Your DC won;t pick it all up at once and may frustrate your DH by going freestyle on him. The set "things I can chew" is possibly not what your DH has in mind when he starts splitting toys into sets.

Fuck counting, we're sorting tomorrow! will not be beaten in pfbness

It's "Set theory", yeah? so I can boast

He's 19mo already, how did we get so behind? <wails and runs out to buy/make numbered blocks etc>

MordionAgenos Sun 18-Nov-12 22:36:36

Set theory is definitey the way to go.

Durab Sun 18-Nov-12 22:39:40

I used to get DSs to sort the socks out for me - I thought it was slave labour, now I realise I was teaching set theory! Surely parents have been doing this for ever, don't all children have to put the smarties in sets before they're allowed to eat them?

MordionAgenos Sun 18-Nov-12 22:40:58

In fact, casting my mind back to the learning type books we got DD1 when she was a toddler, there was a lot of basic set theory in them (in fact it was all pretty much set theory, at a basic level obviously).

Sun 18-Nov-12 22:41:06

See, I love set theory and sorting. Even when he was little DS liked sorting stuff and still does. If DH wants to call it 'set theory for babies' I would suggest that he gets on with it, absolutely no harm done.

RandallPinkFloyd Sun 18-Nov-12 22:46:10

DS is a couple of months younger but I'd like to get an early start.

Will a "simple venn diagram" help him work out where his nose is?

Silibilimili Sun 18-Nov-12 22:53:40

Go with it. Set theory (the name) sounds very mathematical but we all do this to some extent all day very day. No big deal. Why does it have to be either or? Teach both recognition of numbers and sets!

ChippingInLovesAutumn Sun 18-Nov-12 23:00:29

It is making me laugh - why does he feel it's either or? Most of us manage both on a daily basis!

BarbecuedBillygoats Sun 18-Nov-12 23:05:27

Also useful is being able to recognise written numbers and how they relate to actual objects

Sun 18-Nov-12 23:08:20

I tried to teach my PFB to read ( I' m of a literary bent- it could just as well have been set theory) by using flash cards. I used to hold up cards and say, with great ceremony "This says Dog!" until one day, she picked up a random card, held it up and said "Dis say Silly".

She learned to read at school when she was about 6. Like everyone else. But making the flash cards gave me something to do, I suppose.

CuriousMama Sun 18-Nov-12 23:09:08

Sounds interesting as long as like someone else said, your dh is patient.

DS1 manages such as this at that age. DS2 not at all. You just go at their pace.

CuriousMama Sun 18-Nov-12 23:09:18

managed*

MordionAgenos Sun 18-Nov-12 23:10:52

@chipping actually, it's a very philosophical decision - do you go with helping a child to understand stuff from first principles, or do you go with rote learning. I personally have never had a problem with rote learning as one way of getting a job done (but then, I have a photographic memory, so, not a real issue for me) however it is an unavoidable truth that if you don't understand maths at afundamental conceptual level it doesn't matter how good your memory is, you will come up against your limitations probably before you leave primary school.

Obviously you don't have to start this process at one year old. But you don't have to NOT start it at that age, either.

JollyJock Sun 18-Nov-12 23:14:16

I was thinking about this the other day when trying to explain to 19mo Ds about putting like objects together. (Not that I knew what it was called at that point). It's not possible to do it until your child knows some characteristics, e.g. big and small, red and blue. You can't suggest making a pile of red bricks and a pile of blue ones unless your child knows the difference between the two colours. Otherwise you are trying to teach too many concepts at once. (I think. Clearly you can and will all approach parenting in your own ways and this is just my view).

They also need to be able to understand and remember fairly complex instructions. "Red things go here, blue things go there."

Ds says one, more. So he was pointing at my eyebrows today. The first one was "eyebrow" and the second was "more". I was very impressed!

I agree with the poster up thread who said that the ability to say "one, two, three, four five" is not the same as the ability to count. You do need to have names for numbers in order to count though. Or in order to convey your counting to other people at least.

You just leave them with a play farm or play garage or something and give them animals, cars and then let him get on with it. He will start to 'sort' his toys. You can then count them back into the box.

I don't think you need to suggest anything to them either - let them group stuff according to their own categorisation - it will become increasingly more complex as their understanding becomes more complex.

So it may be that the groupies initially all animals with a dark colour are grouped but as the chil learns more they may put mammals and reptiles in groups based on appearance . Later they will group digs and then horses. Later still, Labradors and German shepherds.

( I know it is nearly 5am, but am on nightshift!)

learnandsay Mon 19-Nov-12 12:01:37

I think it's a brilliant idea. He can then draw braces on the boys draws and cupboards, number all his toys and whenever the bedroom is untidy he can comment that all of your sons elements are out of order. Maths by doing. It's a great idea.

Mon 19-Nov-12 15:50:01

Well I was unconvinced, frankly, until DH mentioned that lego would be useful for this. Then I remembered how when we first got the lego (DS1 was around 11mo) I pounced upon it and started sorting it into colour groups and eagerly pointed these out to DS1, who solemnly nodded and began to eat them.

So according to DH, the teaching of set theory has already started and I was the instigator

I think you're right about the categorisation btw aboutlastnight. Was it someone on here who mentioned that we'd begin on set theory automatically anyway when he first starts eating Smarties? Because I used to carefully divide them up and count them and then eat them in strict order still do

noblegiraffe Mon 19-Nov-12 16:04:50

This was the American project to teach stuff like set theory from a young age to 'lay the foundations' for future study. It was a disaster and quickly abandoned in favour of the more traditional 'teaching kids to add up'.

By all means encourage DS to sort his toys 'ok, here are things which are red and here are cars, which belong in both groups?' but not over teaching him to count.

strumpetpumpkin Mon 19-Nov-12 16:15:26

is this thread along the same lines as mornington crescent?

GrimmaTheNome Mon 19-Nov-12 16:21:51

>is this thread along the same lines as mornington crescent?
no (but if anyone fancies a game, do start a thread)

You could do the 'venn diagram' by sorting bricks by two different properties at once (eg red, big) -into two overlapping hoops on the floor. There will be some that are big and red which go into the intersecting area.

Anyhow - parents the world over encourage their kids to sort, and IIRC it happens before kids really get the hang of counting.

Mon 19-Nov-12 16:23:53

strumpetpumpkin - eh? I don't understand

noblegiraffe - I will point DH in the direction of said article. Thanks!

UptoapointLordCopper Mon 19-Nov-12 16:40:38

You can teach set theory and counting and adding up, you know. That's the beauty of having class size 1. I have class size 2 at home, and have been teaching them whatever we like since forever. It's fun.

Mon 19-Nov-12 16:44:33

Is your husband Bertrand Russell OP? He was of the opinion that all numbers were fundamentally artefacts of set theory: hence the number two was in its essence the sets of all sets with two things in them. Actually because that is based around the fundamental notion of one-to-one correspondance, I think it might be a perfectly reasonable thing to bear in mind when introducing a toddler to numbers.

OTOH Russell, despite his many fine characteristics, was a pathological philanderer, and dead, so not brilliant husband material.

noblegiraffe Mon 19-Nov-12 16:46:48

Russell also took hundreds of pages to prove that 1+1=2 which some people might consider a bit of a waste of time!

UptoapointLordCopper Mon 19-Nov-12 16:48:49

Since we are talking about Russell, has anyone read Logicomix? Top book!

Mon 19-Nov-12 17:15:54

It is indeed a great book.

sittinginthesun Mon 19-Nov-12 17:19:26

Isn't this all just a complicated way of describing what children tend to do anyway? Many toddlers like to sort things into colours, shapes etc.

In fact, DS2, on his 1st Birthday, managed to separate the food from his party plate into very neat piles of different foods on the table, leaving only the Toddler style "crisps" on his plate.

Budding mathematician maybe

flussymummy Mon 19-Nov-12 20:18:15

I'm with uptoapoint on this one. Sort items into sets and then count them. Works particularly well with Smarties I find, as you can introduce some basic subtraction as they are eaten...

Whatdoiknowanyway Tue 20-Nov-12 10:07:58

My husband solemnly instructed our 3 day old baby on the details of Pythagoras' theory. Can't say it's made much difference to her mathematical ability but it amused him at the time.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 20-Nov-12 11:06:55

No, but exposing babies to lots of different words is good for sound discrimination so it's all good.

Probably more useful than my DH (so he said) teaching his dachshund about quantum mechanics. Perhaps he was trying to get Schrodinger's cat sorted out once and for all.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 20-Nov-12 19:55:05

Nothing like hypotenuses to get a baby going.

Tue 20-Nov-12 22:02:54

I saw an abacus today and thought 'Hey, that'd be useful for the set theory...' and realised that DH has sucked me into this craziness good and proper. Damn him.

Grimma I have quite a flowery way of speaking anyway so I'm hoping that DS will pick up on it! Although he's not exactly profligate with his words so far (about 4 recognisable ones)

I do worry, though. The other day I said 'Honestly, mummy can't tell her bottom from her elbow, can she' somewhat different to the words in my head and wondered if that was an inappropriate thing to say to a child. None of the words themselves were inappropriate, so was the full statement? I'm honestly not sure.

noblegiraffe Tue 20-Nov-12 22:36:40

Do you know what else an abacus would be good for? Counting

Re bottom from elbow, the test is would you be happy for your child to say it to another adult? I say 'oh dear, silly mummy' quite a lot, and DS in turn says 'silly me', or 'silly mummy' depending on who's being silly. I think it would be fine if he said 'silly X' to grandma/childminder but I'd die if he said he didn't know her bottom from her elbow!

GrimmaTheNome Tue 20-Nov-12 22:46:34

And for learning the first three letters of the alphabet A Buh Cuhs.

Every baby should have one!

Wed 21-Nov-12 07:26:51

A useful rule of thumb noblegiraffe - I shall use it! Thanks.

Will try to buy an abacus today, for the countin'

cory Wed 21-Nov-12 09:30:12

noblegiraffe Mon 19-Nov-12 16:04:50

This was the American project to teach stuff like set theory from a young age to 'lay the foundations' for future study. It was a disaster and quickly abandoned in favour of the more traditional 'teaching kids to add up'."

This was our maths teaching in Sweden when I was a youngster and I think it is fair to say that our maths skills were well below that of our British counterparts.

I spent some time in an English school in my teens: found I was well ahead in MFL's, could more or less understand the science but was hopelessly behind in maths: half the things they did I'd never even heard of. Swedish educationalists now regard it as an embarrassing episode in the educational history of the country; in fact, it got a mention in the History of the Welfare Years which I picked up on my last visit.

But perhaps it wouldn't be so bad for a 17mo; our problem was that we were 7 or 8 and still expected to sit in class and carefully draw circles around illustrations of brightly coloured objects, when we would have been perfectly capable of subtracting and multiplying 3 digit numbers.

Penny's approach to Schrodinger's cat points up the limitations of scientific thinking - she pointed out that you'd soon smell if the cat was dead .

Sort items into groups for now, 17 months a bit too soon to learn counting but go with bigger and smaller. Use mathematical language for shape sorting. Later start some pre-writing skills (joining unnumbered dots is good) to help them draw circles.

boschy Wed 21-Nov-12 12:33:59

I am loving seeker's DDs comment on p.3: "dis say silly"!!

but OP if your DH would like a challenge, could he explain anything maths-y AT ALL to my 2 teenagers (girls, very nice and polite appart from their proficiency in swearing)?

Wed 21-Nov-12 13:26:36

I remember my DS1 going beserk at about this age when trying to make a pile of red things and a pile of cars, and then coming across a red car. If only I'd thought of introducing him to Venn diagrams...

OP - your DH and DS sound terrific. Good luck with set theory. When he gets a bike, you can move him onto vector calculus!

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 21-Nov-12 14:59:38

acebaby A missed opportunity!

But many children like classifying things. If you play it right you can make tidying up a game in set theory. A box for cars, a box for red things, a box for intersections. Will work a treat. Probably.

JollyJock Thu 22-Nov-12 12:28:16

I was contemplating this morning whether it is necessary for my Ds to learn the alphabet in alphabetical order, or whether I can teach him qwertuiop placement from day 1 instead. He can now accurately find the letter H on a keyboard, but I doubt he could do it on an alphabet line.

JollyJock Thu 22-Nov-12 12:29:03

Obviously I meant qwertyuiop. My fingers are too fat.

CecilyP Thu 22-Nov-12 12:30:58

How on earth is he going to do the filing, though?

JollyJock Thu 22-Nov-12 12:41:32

Bugger, Cecily, I knew there was an issue with it somewhere.

Although by the time Ds grows up everything will be computerised anyway I reckon.

luckylavender Thu 22-Nov-12 13:09:22

DS had one of those shape sorter things as a baby and I merrily tried to get him to repeat the shapes as he put them into the holes "Triangle" I said, DS repeated some gurgling sound. "Tetrahedron" said DH. I smiled and nodded.

flamingtoaster Thu 22-Nov-12 13:25:03

I think all DHs should be encouraged to teach their toddlers set theory etc. - it keeps the both of them out of mischief wonderfully.

Thu 22-Nov-12 13:37:16

luckylavender - we knew someone who proudly stated that her 2yo could say 'quadrilateral'. DH said yes, but did she actually know what it meant? Cue a dirty look from the mum and much cringing from me

Since then he's taken a perverse delight in telling DS that all shapes are polygons. Oh, and proclaiming 'Penultimate spoonful!' at the appropriate point of every meal (on the basis that if you're going to use long words they may as well be in context).

Thu 22-Nov-12 20:32:51

we had great fun teaching DS1 to say parallelepiped (spot the maths geek parents!) There actually was a parallelepiped on his shape sorter. Much more fun than teaching him plain old 'diamond' - if a bit tricky to say for a toddler who couldn't pronounce 'l' <melts a bit at memory of pawa-ye-o-piper>.

noblegiraffe Thu 22-Nov-12 20:46:33

Sodding diamonds. There's no such mathematical shape. Diamond needs to be beaten out of them and Rhombus beaten into them at secondary school and I'm sure it's the fault of toddler shape sorters.

### Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now