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We’ve been working on numbers lately, and the results are mixed. Funny, but mixed.

Simon knows three numbers: one, two, and eight. We started working with two right before his birthday. “How old will you be, Simon?” we’d ask. “Tea” would come his smiling response.

A few weeks ago, he started to understand that one and two follow each other; that if we say “one,” he should respond with “two,” and vice-versa. And just last week he let us know that he really understands the concept of two when he saw an old picture of himself holding two Dirty Dogs and nonchalantly announced “Tea dir dah.” As in Chinese, note the lack of an “s” at the end of the multiplied word. If only English really worked this way, we could spare him the hassles of “tires” verses “dresses” versus “mice” verses “moose.” Really, it’s a crazy language we have.

Since the “two dir dah” incident he’s been on the lookout for pairs and announces them whenever he finds them. One day Hundley’s doggie twin showed up on Curious George and Simon shouted out “Tea dah”. Saturday he realized he has two Thomas engines and he yelled out “Tea Ta-ta”. Which brings up another interesting point: For Simon “tea” mainly refers to matched items. So maybe he doesn’t have the plural ironed out after all, and is instead working on the Hebrew dual form.

This new understanding has inspired Matt to up the ante to three. Turns out, Simon is dedicated to a base-two mathematical system. If we show him one item, he will say “un.” Present the second, and he dutifully says “tea.” Put a third in front of him and he looks a bit perplexed and says “un.” We’ll get there in good time. Maybe he’s destined to be a computer programmer and we should have started with zero?

Part of our numbers game has involved counting down for him. We count down before turning off his light at night, before turning him upside down when we play, and the like. If Matt starts at five, Simon will usually take over at the end to say “two” and “one”. Last night Matt merely made mention of the word countdown when Simon looked up and brightly added “un,” altogether dispensing with five through two. Being a busy toddler, he decided to jump straight to the point I suppose.

As for eight, I have no idea why he knows this. We have not focused on eight at all. My best-and frankly only-guess is that he is learning about the eight days of Chanukah at school. It never occurred to us that he would know it, but in his bath last week he picked up a foam eight and surprised us by telling us it was a “boo eight.” Then he scrounged a second one and explained it was a “pupul eight.” After his bath, he shouted out behind him while leaving the room, “bye, boo eight.” So not only a number, but possibly a favorite number, and maybe even a friend.

We’ll see if he’s still entranced when it’s time for trig.

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