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I am not able to explain the complexities of life, such as molecules and negative numbers to a 5 year old

(38 Posts)
StarryStarryNight Mon 30-Jul-07 15:07:52

Does anybody know any good books that explains such matter in an easy to understand language?

My son is 5, and is for ever asking me what water is made of, what is a molecule, why he cannot see it, and are there molecules everywhere, and what is metal, and what comes after -1, and how can he see minus 1, minus 2 etc when he can see 1,2,3 beads or pizza slices, why can he not see negative numbers? I am not equipped to answer such questions. Today we were doing maths with adding together negative and positive numbers, and I really dont know how to best explain it? Any clues?

HedTwig Mon 30-Jul-07 15:08:40

negative and positive numbers at 5???


WideWebWitch Mon 30-Jul-07 15:09:28

wow, clever questions. No answer for you though, sorry. Science Museum do some fab experiment type presents though when he gets a bit older.

Tortington Mon 30-Jul-07 15:11:32

"cos it is...shut yer gob and get another bag of crisp"

cornsilk Mon 30-Jul-07 15:12:03

Use a thermometer for negative numbers - put it in the fridge.
There are some good websites for molecules that explain it in cartoon form. Try BBC.
You could freeze water, let it melt, turn it into steam to help explain.

StarryStarryNight Mon 30-Jul-07 15:14:39

Thanks guys.
I will check the bbc website, and I have freezer thermometer somewhere, can try that.

Hedtwig, why? I ask the same, where did he even get the concept? He is asking me to explain, I am at loss!

TranquilaManana Mon 30-Jul-07 15:17:29

a childrens encyclopeadia?

phatcat Mon 30-Jul-07 15:19:01

Usborne do a "Pocket Science" range which should fit the bill I think. They sell them individually on Amazon, but we recently got 20 for £9.99 from The Book People. I don't recall that there's one about numbers but there are loads of other subjects that he will be interested in - my 4 year old particularly likes "Where Does Rubbish Go"

popsycal Mon 30-Jul-07 15:21:06

Not the same but my 5 year old loves the book
'Is a blue whale the biggest thing there is?' (or something like that) which explains the universe.....

HedTwig Mon 30-Jul-07 15:25:17

well if it helps we have the "I wonder why" series and at least another kids style encyclopedia

we have some of the workbooks that are done as fun and sometimes play with them (when we feel like it) they do science, maths and literacy and you get stars and trophy stickers

if I don't know we look it up on the internet .. there is inevitably a child's explanation somewhere

expatinscotland Mon 30-Jul-07 15:25:42

Print out a Cartesian plane. That should help his undersanding of negative numbers. Or just draw one. If you are able to add positive and negative numbers together with him, then you also understand the concepts behind.

So just start with a line and go from there.

You can get wooden, 3 dimensional molecules.

Going to be trickier explaining why you can never divide by zero, but there's bound to be a book out there that doesn't just read: ERROR! ERROR!

ChasingSquirrels Mon 30-Jul-07 15:29:06

negative numbers - ds1 REALLY understood this when I likened it to a pile of earth.
start with flat earth
- dig a bucket full +1
- what is 'left behind' -1 (the hole)

popsycal Mon 30-Jul-07 15:30:23

neg number - 'borrow' smarties/money from each other...

ShrinkingViolet Mon 30-Jul-07 15:39:07

you can't divide by zero because dividing means splitting things up into groups, and you can split a number of things into no groups at all, you have to have at least one group.
I tried to explain negative numbers to DD1 using my normal "make up an exaggerated story" technique but got bogged down with apple shaped holes, whcih made perfect sense to me, but not to her. Would recommend a thermometer for negative numbers, and something like Cuisinaire rods for molecules so you cna show that two fo something plus one of something else gives a differetn coloured result - so two red rods are hydrogen, add them to a plain coloured rod for oxygen, and that makes a yellow rod size for water. I tried lego for that but ti doesn't show the end result being somethign diffrerent to the sum of its parts.

flamingtoaster Mon 30-Jul-07 15:43:59

Agree a thermometer is the way to go for postive/negative numbers. As regards his science questions when you can't find a suitable explanation online - on there is a science forum where you can post questions and people will answer them. You can also e-mail questions into the programme and they will answer them on-air - you can listen via podcasts. There's also an excellent kitchen science bit.

For other difficult questions you might find some of the sites listed on 7673093&CFTOKEN=75541148

useful. These sites are specifically for children. I remember this stage well - we used the Encyclopaedia Britannica as the internet wasn't around when DS was small. You are in for an interesting summer by the sound of it!

TranquilaManana Mon 30-Jul-07 16:25:12


i am now feeling woefully inadequate as a parent. is dawning on me that i am an ignoramus.

Piffle Mon 30-Jul-07 16:31:20

you need these books
I well remember my ds1 asking this kind of stuff aged 4 and 5 I remember thinking how did I produce this creature, why can he not just like trains ffs...

expatinscotland Mon 30-Jul-07 16:32:45

Don't feel inadequate, Tranquila. My DD1 is SN. She's 4 and doesn't even understand the concept of numbers at all. I was gifted, but my adult life has been a mess.

Piffle Mon 30-Jul-07 16:34:07

and he likes this site to although now he is 13...

Saturn74 Mon 30-Jul-07 16:34:53

LOL @ Custy's "cos it is...shut yer gob and get another bag of crisp"

TranquilaManana Mon 30-Jul-07 16:48:47

i must be hormonal or something.

i am really touched by your response expat. i dont think your life is a mess. leastways, you dont strike me as such.

also; i read piffles link as: http//

which made me smile.

paulaplumpbottom Mon 30-Jul-07 16:50:07

Have him send his questions to NewScientist magazine. They answer questions in the back

StarryStarryNight Mon 30-Jul-07 16:59:48

Piffle, does that book explain about rain and the link between water evaporating and rain? And how water comes into being?
Must order it.

He has the series with maths and star stickers at the back, he has done them all with his dad.

singersgirl Mon 30-Jul-07 19:26:57

DS2 is always asking stuff like this (last year, when he was 4 and a bit, he counted back from 20 in 2s and just went going right down to -10; he must have overheard me explaining about negative numbers to DS1, who is 3 years older). When asked to think of 2 numbers that make 6, he suggested -1 + 7. The funny thing is that he is not that good at 'basic' maths.

Thermometers are good, as are lifts - the floors below the ground are the negative numbers. If he is keen on money, you can explain it in terms of owing money to someone; if he owes you £1.00, he actually has -£1.00.

I got a great book from The Science Museum called "The Super Science Book" which has pop-ups and moveable bits, including a pull-out miniature periodic table. It explains about the various states of things (liquid, solid, gas etc) in amusing ways. It's also available on Amazon. We have some good science pocket books from The Book People too.

mumeeee Mon 30-Jul-07 22:42:18

Why ia a five year old doing Negative numbers? They don't usually do this until about 9 year s old. At five most children are still learning to add and subtract numbers up to 20

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