Wednesday, November 07, 2007

From Tala to Bertrand Russell: Dad said "W" is a number

Today was one of those days! Not a bad day, really, just different from normal. Things started to split off their normal track pretty early in the morning, when our nanny (de la semaine) called in to let us know she'd been in an accident on the way in, and she naturally would not be coming. Great! Hana was at work, so it meant I had to get Moody on the school bus and that would give me just enough time to get to my class this morning. But what should I do with Tala? Yes, my only choice was to take her with me. Ahem, cause to pause!

Tala was the quietest, most peaceful 5-year old student I could've ever imagined! After I introduced her, she sat exactly in the center of the front row, and as we'd agreed, pulled out her coloring book and markers and started to color away. And she stayed that way to the end, about 50 minutes! I was just thrilled that part worked so smoothly.

In lecture I introduced some equations, one involving a variable "W" and I said something like, "W is the number of different configurations..." On the way home after class, I was chatting with Tala about her visit to my class and whether she took away anything from my lecture... She thought the whole thing was boring, and added, "Dad, you said 'W' is a number." I thought to myself, sure W is the number of configurations... It wasn't untill a while later when it dawned on me that Tala meant "W" is a letter not a number. lol lol lol.

Tala is right. I should've said "W denotes the number of ..." not "W is the number." I was reminded of my student days and courses I took in logic and philosophy, thanks to the US university education system that requires grubby geeks to take courses in humanities and social sciences. I recalled memories about Bertrand Russell's paradox of self reference and his famous article "On Denoting," and the whole business of confusing the name of something with the thing itself. Tala is a logical little girl, it's just her nature. In about two decades of teaching, I never had a relative in class. Tala was the first, and I was lucky to have her feedback. All n' all, a beautiful day it was, the kind that I'd say is downright spiritual!

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