My kids do summer swim team and my Saturdays are filled with cheering for them by the pool. After a particularly long, hot meet outdoors last Saturday, I told my kids they could unwind with some computer game playing time. I caught up on emails while listening to my son battle imaginary creatures.

But then, my little guy surprised me. From out of nowhere, he says, “Mom, does the ScootPad app work on this? I can’t find it.”

I tried to sound casual: “Oh? You’re looking for the ScootPad app…here, just click here to search for it.”

“I’m going to check out the class leaderboard. Let’s see how I’m doing.”

Checking out the class leaderboard can motivate different kinds of thinking and learning.
Checking out the class leaderboard can motivate different kinds of thinking and learning.

When he saw it, his competitive streak was set on red alert. “Fourth? How could I be fourth? I have almost 1000 correct answers! This is not right. Nihal has 1054 and I have 926. How will I catch up?”

Ahhh…a perfect real world moment for math! “Well, how many is he ahead of you by?” I asked innocently. I could see the thinking…the estimating…the calculating.

boy thinking

“More than 100, but not 150. Maybe 125.”

“OK, about 125. How many practices would that be if each practice is 20 questions?” Again, I saw the wheels turning.

“Oh my gosh, like 6 or 7. That’s a lot! But on the reading leaderboard I’m ahead of him by like 75. Hmmm…the reading points are lower than the math points.”

“Why do you think?” I asked pressing him to do some applied reasoning.

“Because math has more for every practice. Like twice as much as reading. So me being 75 ahead on reading means he has 6 or 7 practices there to do to catch up with me. It’s like we’re even. But I’m going to keep track of him. I bet he’s not working this summer on ScootPad and I am!”

I smiled. Not a single problem solved and yet so much problem solving and real world thinking were going on. I loved to see how he was applying his competitive streak in productive ways!

What are ways you foster applied thinking and reasoning?

Dr. Michelle Anthony