Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Teaching Numbers

Californian Gary Soto  writes for both children and adults and much of his work suits both groups.  Here from A Fire in My Hands (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) is "Teaching Numbers":

  Teaching Numbers     by Gary Soto 
                                        I've never been
                                        good at math.  I know
                                        nothing about algebra,
                                        and calculus would hurt
                                        my brain.  But I know
                                        enough to begin to
                                        teach my daughter
                                        to count to one
  The moon is one,
  The early stars a few more . . .
  The sycamore is lean
  With sparrows, four perhaps,
  Three hunched like hoods
  And one by itself, wiping a beak
  In the rag of his shoulder.
  From where we sit
  We could count to a thousand
  By pointing at oranges
  On trees, bright lanterns
  Against the dusk, globes
  Of water that won't come down.
  Follow me with this, then:
  A stray on two legs
  At a trash can, one kite in a tree,
  And a couple with four hands,
  Three in pockets and one scratching
  An ear busy with sound:
  Door, cat, scrambling leaf.
  (The world understand numbers,
  And at birth we're not given much.
  When we're lowered into the earth
  We're even less, a broken
  Toy of 108 bones and 23 teeth
  That won't stop laughing.)
  But let's not talk about this.
  For the dog is happy with an eggshell
  And oranges are doing wonders
  At this hour in the trees.
  There is popcorn to pick
  From my small bowl of hands.
  Let's start again
  With numbers that will help.
  The moon is one,
  The early stars a few more . . .

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