# 7 + 4 = 2

I’ve been told that mathematics is the study of patterns and relationships. I think there’s a special pattern and unique relationships to reading, also. It is represented in the above formula.

Here’s the pattern part. A child in the primary grades is likely to be thrilled when he begins to get how reading works. It may be awkward and halting, but like the emergence of any skill, when the child understands what the skill is for and how it is personally beneficial he’ll begin to attend to and appreciate the basics of print and page and what they yield.

Now, consider learning to play basketball. By watching friends, a small child will sort of get what the game is, and just start to play. She’ll run down the court holding the ball like a halfback and then throw the ball toward the hoop, which falls far short. BUT, she clearly gets the general idea. Dribbling and passing and shooting and all the rest will come over time as she practices and maybe receives some coaching, but most importantly has fun playing the game.

With the help of more capable readers, those new to reading can make excellent progress as well. A child will first get and maintain his interest by watching folks read, by talking and listening to others and, of course, by trying it out himself. Explicit instruction by a trained educator can certainly help, but in the absence of that resource, joyful early progress can still be made.

Returning to our formula (7 + 4 =2), now look for the relationships. The left half of the formula is meant to assert that even a 7 year old struggling reader can help a 4-year-old newbie. In mathematics, the commutative property of addition means that any order also can be true. So, similarly, a four-year-old avid reader can help a 7-year-old struggler. So long as one reader is a bit more experienced or advanced than the other, then he can take leadership in coaching the development of reading in another who is interested in getting books.

But then what does the 2 in this formula mean?

Well, since my metaphor is disguised as a formula, it isn’t like a basic addition problem. That’s because being a metaphor, the mathematical units represented by the 7 and the 4 are not the same. My units are not equivalent like apples. (It isn’t like 7 apples + 4 apples = 2 apples, which of course is not true.) Here, they are always different. It doesn’t matter who the 7 year old is or who the 4 year old is. They always will be different people enjoying a shared book.

Here’s the gist. What my study of patterns and relationships indicates is that there’s no downside for anybody in this relationship. Whether the 7 helps the 4 or the 4 helps the 7, BOTH readers are likely to benefit from the experience of reading and discussing a good book together because both are reading in the best ways they currently can.

So, a 7 year old + a 4 year old readingtogether = 2 improved readers!

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### 2 Responses to “7 + 4 = 2”

1. Susan King Fullerton May 4, 2017 at 12:55 pm #

Mark,
So grateful for all that you do! I just posted this on Facebook. I know that many parents and teachers will appreciate it!
Best,
Susan

• Mark Condon May 4, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

Thank you for those kind words, Susan! Parents and teachers are my consistent audiences. Glad to hear that a colleague finds my small contributions useful.