According to My Calculation…

As 6yo Matthew will be starting his Primary school education next year, we have been reinforcing the concepts of money, addition and subtraction at home. However, we soon realised that his mathematical foundation isn’t so strong after all.

The kids and I were walking to meet the Man to go home one evening and Matthew was carrying his special fieldtrip backpack in preparation for the upcoming fieldtrip. The backpack was a gift to all the children in the school about 2 Children’s Day ago and the kids love theirs. It is round in shape, and although it looks small, a water bottle and a jacket could fit snugly in the bag.

Matthew was lagging behind as he scrutinised the empty bagpack. Suddenly I overheard him say to himself, “According to my calculation, this bag is the same size as my face.” Astonished by his words, I turned around in time to see him put the bagpack to his face as if to confirm his ‘calculation’. I quickly turned to face the front again, before he had time to put down the bag and spot me spying on him. I had to hide my smile as I rolled my eyes skywards; the bagpack is twice the size of his small face! His ‘calculation’ was not that accurate after all, but I doubt he realised that.

Shortly after the size of bag ≠ size of face incident, Matthew was going on a fieldtrip to a nearby Primary school organised by his class; the purpose of this trip was to show the children what a Primary school looks like, and to practise buying food from the canteen. The teachers’ instruction to us was to give the children $2 for the children to spend at the canteen, and we did exactly that, giving Matthew 4 fifty cents, confident he had learnt the basic concept of the price of food and how much change he should get.

When we asked him how the trip went in the same evening, and after a couple of interrogative sessions and confessions, we were absolutely horrified to find out that Matthew did the following:

  1. Over ate – 1 hotdog, 1 plate of chicken rice and a packet of Milo.
  2. Over spent – hotdog $1, chicken rice $1.20, Milo $0.70
  3. Underpaid – he bought the hotdog first, followed by the chicken rice so he had insufficient money. The very, very kind uncle at the chicken rice stall told him never mind and only charged him $1!
  4. Borrowed money! – His friend kindly lent him another $2 so he could get a packet of Milo. He returned the rest of the change.

We made him return the 70 cents to his friend the next day, and he was very serious about it. At least he demonstrated he was sorry about borrowing money from his friend.

A lot of traits became glaringly obvious in a single trip to the canteen; lots of miscalculations and miscalculated decisions. And there are several lessons in life that we hope he will remember from now on.

Were we being too harsh on him? Maybe, I don’t know for sure. When I was around his age, I ‘stole’ stripes of prettily coloured paper stuffings from the bags and purses in the departmental store once and got caught by my mum when we reached home. She gave me a big scolding and scared me by telling me that I could get caught by the police and locked up in jail and never see her ever again. I was so freaked out and sorry for what I did that I never, ever took anything without permission again. Till now.

I really hope he learnt his lessons though, and internalise them to become his core values, for there will be numerous ocassions in the near future where he would need to rely on his core values and will power to survive in the jungle. Matthew, be strong. Life is full of miscalculations, but avoid making the same miscalculation twice. BaBa and MaMa will be here to guide you along…

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