"Look, mummy, I have one hundred thousand dollars!" my daughter yelled from her room as I walked up the stairs with her baby sister.
One hundred thousand dollars I thought, where did she get that? Certainly not from her lemonade stand last week.
As I entered her room, she greeted me with her favorite pink calculator--the number 10,000,000 typed on it. "See, mummy, see?" she exclaimed.
Clearly, we need to work on the fact that typing a number into your calculator doesn't exactly make money appear, but, you know, we'll get there.
"Ohhh," I responded. "I like how you are talking about big numbers, but that number is actually ten million."
"Ten million?" she questioned.
"Ohhhhhh. Ten million," she repeated as she looked at the number and began to count the zeros.
"Mummy, it has a one and seven zeros!"
"That's right," I responded. "It has one one and seven zeros."
Before I had even completed my sentence, Isabella was already typing a new number into the calculator.
"What's this number, mummy?" she asked.
"One thousand," I replied.
"And this?" she asked after typing in another zero.
"One hundred thousand."
She continued to add zeros until she reached the calculator's eight-digit limit--ten million.
"Look, mama, it's ten million!" she shouted proudly.
"That's right. I'm so proud you remembered your new number," I responded.
We continued to play with the calculator for about another thirty minutes. My daughter would type random numbers and I would read them to her:
fourteen million, five hundred seventy-eight thousand, two hundred;
nine thousand four hundred seventy-six;
fifty-four thousand four hundred ninety-three.
I know what you're thinking: my preschooler is too young to be talking about such large numbers! Yes, she is not necessarily capable of understanding the concept of ten million and how it relates to say, the number ten (and the ten crayons she has on the table) but she is capable of seeing it written out and noticing the pattern as she counts the multiples of ten with you: ten, one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand, one million, ten million. She's also not too young to hear adults use large numbers in everyday conversation. If we speak about fifty-four thousand four hundred ninety-three the same way we speak about eight, we are teaching our preschoolers that "large" numbers aren't scary, they are a part of everyday life, just like "small" numbers. Exposing your preschooler to "large" and "complicated" numbers at an early age will help her build confidence with numbers and, later, build confidence in her abilities in the subject of mathematics in general.