Mookie and her two-years-older cousin N. were sharing lots of giggles over dinner tonight as Mookie engaged N. in one of her favorite pastimes, Math Quiz. She posed math problems and he solved them. They quickly got into Math Nerd Humor, Elementary School Division:

M: What’s 13 x 1?

N (feigning puzzlement): Um . . . 13?

M: (collapses laughing)

Then:

M: What’s ten times zero times zero times zero times zero . . . (collapses again)

Then he started giving her problems. “What’s -42 divided by 2?” Mookie had no idea what he was talking about. “Negative,” in this context, was a foreign word; she literally said “Huh?!” I suggested to N. that he explain negative numbers to her–she’d enjoy them–but then we heard this:

N: What’s negative 300 plus negative 301?

M: Um . . . 601–wait, no, negative 601.

At this point Joy’s eyes and mine met across the table, both clearly saying, *How the hell does she know that?*

This child’s intuition for math is astounding. Maybe she gets it from Joy.

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Awesome! She may have just decided it is a modifier, like “blue 300 plus blue 301,” but maybe she’s had a glimpse of negative numbers and just needed to fit the word into the idea.

Hard to say. It’s really fun watching her sort these things out, though.