Spelling numbers

(the kids aren’t alright)

As I spend a lot of my time with kids, I’m exposed to Kiddish – the garbled, innocent language of the recently-literate – quite a lot. And while the majority of Kiddish is inane garbage, I was treated to one marvellous concept today; a kid asked me how to write a five-digit number, by did so by asking ‘how do you spell it?’

At first I was confused, as this child has failed to understand that numbers and letters and fundamentally different things, and must be referred to with different language. Obviously!

But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that the kid had a point. From where they’re coming from, not yet brainwashed by our adult culture of arbitrary rigid lines, letters and numbers are one and the same, as scratches on a page used to indicate meaning. And that’s certainly true; whether you write ‘five’ or ‘5’, you’re still turning that written symbol to a verbal one, and beyond that an idea with a defined meaning.

Maybe the kid was on to something bigger; maybe we shouldn’t be dividing the mathematical and the written, particularly in schools and places of education. The world is how we perceive it, and if we can break down these barriers perhaps our image of the world may become more whole, and more beautiful.

Or maybe the kid was just a moron.

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