Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Calculator

Caden got a calculator last night. It was love at first sight.

He got it at the 99 cent store and the battery died almost immediately, which didn't surprise me, but crushed Caden. That is, until he discovered a trick: that if you hold the calculator next to a light or direct a flashlight towards the screen, the crisp digits become visible instantly.

I said I was sorry it wasn't working properly, told him he shouldn't have to point a light at the screen. I told him I'd get a better one tomorrow. He rejected this however, saying he liked the one he had.

"I can just take my flashlight," he said, then bent his head towards the screen again, marveling at the numbers.

"What do you not know?" he would ask me next. "What numbers shall we try?"

We started with 15 x 15, then 47 x 59, then 91 x 91 and 810 x 810. 2375 + 5356 worried him initially as he thought the calculator would not be able to go that high, but I encouraged him to try, and he found it did.

After a while, he looked thoughtfully at the screen. "Who makes the numbers?" he asked. "What is the biggest number?" I had no answers for this, but still I tried. We explored square roots and percentages. I had trouble explaining square roots at first, but as I continued the explanation his face lit up, and he rolled over on the carpet with a grin, literally reeling in the moment of illumination. "Ohhh! I get it!" he exclaimed. I did a worse job explaining percentages.

For the rest of the evening, the calculator was his joy. He punched in sum after sum, equation after equation, reveling in the speed with which the contraption returned answers to its flickering and flimsy screen. When it was time to put away for the night he sighed deeply, then gave it a pat.

"I like the calculator," he said, leaning into me and hiding his face in my side. "I don't want to lose it."

"We won't lose it," I said.

The next day we got a bigger calculator, with a larger screen and fresh battery. It still cost 99 cents. I can't think of another purchase recently, regardless of price, that has made him so happy.

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