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Vn11101

Vn111.1 Swears 11/30/77

A few days ago I sat at a terminal with Miriam at the Children’s
Learning Lab. In response to the “login” request, Miriam typed “FUCK”
then turned to me and said, “Look, Daddy, I typed a swear.” I responded
non-committally, “Oh yeah. Why don’t you hit new line and see if it
works?” The response came back, “No such user.” I found it amusing to
think back a few months when I overheard Robby making fun of Miriam
because she spelled the word ‘FUKC’. I continued: “You say that’s a
swear. Can you tell me what a swear is?” Miriam didn’t answer.

This evening Miriam demonstrated for me how good she had become at
doing “Miss Lucy.” This is a chanting game for two with partner hand
clapping a la “Patty-cake, patty-cake.” I had earlier seen some third
grade girls playing this game when I rode on the school bus to visit
with the children. With most of her attention focussed on the quite
complex clapping patterns, Miriam began singing:

Miss Lucy had a steamboat, 
   The steamboat had a bell. 
The steamboat went to Heaven, 
   Miss Lucy went to --
Hello, operator, 
   Give me number nine, 
If you disconnect me, 
   I'll cut off your -- 
Behind the 'frigerator 
   There is some broken glass. 
Miss Lucy sat upon it 
   And cut her big fat -- 
Ask me no more questions, 
   I'll tell you no more lies. 
The boys are in the bathroom 
   Pulling down their -- 
Flies are in the meadow, 
   Bees are in the grass. . .

She then called out, “Robby, what comes next?” I was tempted to tell
her myself. The sense of deja vue was very strong, for the tune was one
I knew as a child with these words:

Lulu had a baby, 
   She named him Tiny Tim.
Put him in the piss pot 
   And learned him how to swim. 
He swam to the bottom, 
   Swam to the top. 
Lulu got excited 
   And grabbed him by his -- 
Cocktail, ginger ale, 
   Five cents a glass. 
If you don't like it, 
   Stuff it up your --
Ask me no questions, 
   I'll tell you no lies. 
If you ever get hit with a bucket of shit, 
   Be sure to close your eyes.

When Robby did not respond to her question, Miriam turned to me and said,
“That song sure has a lot of swears in it, doesn’t it, Daddy?” I agreed.
“Michelle taught you the hand clapping, you said. Is she the only one
who knows all the swears?” Miriam confided to me that really everyone
knew them. I admitted I knew many, possibly some she didn’t know.
Miriam’s curiosity rose. I established my claim by running past her some
gutter Italian I had learned in grade school and a few Spanish phrases
I picked up in the Army. Miriam was impressed. I remember being similarly
impressed myself recently when a friend indulged in some exemplary
Afrikaans. I couldn’t understand or mimic his performance, but it
appeared he was mouthing a string of unimaginably vulgar and insulting
epithets.

Relevance
Songs such as those of Lulu and Miss Lucy obviously are broadly
dispersed and endure in the child culture we all pass through and no
longer attend to. Beyond the fun implicit in violating the petty taboos
against vulgarity, these rhymes engage the children in memorizing chants,
the crucial humor of which is found in the punning of the terminal rhyme.
Children learn the puns first and realize their double meaning after.
For example, Miriam did not appear to understand the pun on ‘BEHIND’ in
the Miss Lucy song.

Vn11201

Vn112.1 How Her Teacher Sees Miriam 12/7/77

Miriam’s teacher, Sue, sees her as a special child in several ways.
Her surprise at Miriam’s easy solution of class inclusion problems (cf.
Vignette 90, Meeting Miriam’s Teacher) shows she had reason outside of
anything I told her in our first meeting. She learned of Miriam’s continuing
work at the Logo project and was favorably impressed by our links
with the now-respectable scientist Piaget. Thus Miriam appears special
by developmental progress for her age and by the experience of her ongoing
engagement in a serious study.

As The Intimate Study concluded, the children asked if they could
bring their classmates over to visit Logo. I agreed to help them work
that out if they wanted to, on condition that a few children came at one
time and that Robby and Miriam be the ones who ran the show. Both accepted
this scenario as the best one. Robby suggested that their teachers
be first to visit (I don’t know why). Miriam was not keen on the idea
but didn’t argue enough to undermine Robby’s support of the plan. About
the middle of November, the two teachers spent approximately 2 hours at
Logo. The children showed off their computer pictures and their desks,
then explained their work to the teachers. I stayed in the background
as much as possible. Both wanted to play Wumpus, but because this was
confusing to their teachers, they showed them SHOOT and its variations,
explaining the primitives and exhibiting the arithmetic tasks the game
involved them in. Otherwork included the use of POLYSPI and INSPI,
drawings, and a text manipulation work. I believe the teachers were
impressed by the work and the children’s command of it. Sue’s note (see
Addendum 112 – 1) witnesses her response.

Yesterday Gretchen met with Sue for an evaluation conference. (The
report is attached as Addendum 112 – 2, 3, and 4). I was unable to attend
the meeting, but Gretchen recalls these comments:

- Miriam gets a great deal of pleasure from seeing and playing with 
     her school friends.
- Miriam always did her work with a great deal of attention to detail, even
     if she was merely drawing to fill in time between organizeed activities.
- Miriam didn't copy from other people, either to get directions 
     for what she should be doing or to get an idea.
- Miriam cooperated and worked well with her classmates, but not 
     merely that. She tried to help them and was able to do so.
- Miriam seemed to enjoy solving problems. Her focus was not on getting 
     the answer; she seemed to enjoy the process of working out problems, 
     to take pleasure in the process more than in the result.

Relevance
These notes record a view of Miriam independent from mine.

Addendum 112-1

Note from Miriam’s Teacher

Vn 112-1 Teacher note

Addendum 112-2

Conference Report, page 1

Vn 112-2 Conference report, pg 1

Addendum 112-3

Conference Report, page 2

Vn 112-3 Conference report, pg 2

Addendum 112-4

Conference Report, page 3

Vn 112-4 Conference report, pg 3

Vn11301

Vn113.1 Steady State 12/8/77

A few nights ago, Miriam approached me: “Dad, why do we have to
spend 6 hours in school every day?” “Why do you ask?” I countered.
Miriam continued, “It sure is a long time.” When I first asked what
was the problem, the answer came back that the work was too hard, there
were so many math papers to do, and so forth (but note that Miriam’s
work of choice at school is doing math papers; Cf. Addenda 112 – 2, 3).
Finally Miriam said, “It’s just boring.” And then, “Do I have to go to
school?”

Two years back, I recall Robby asking if he could quit school at
the end of 3 months in the first grade. He argued that he knew how to
add and had learned how to read and that there was little more the schools
could teach him. Miriam’s position is the same. I told her she can stay
home from school any time she wants except on certain days when Gretchen
and I might both have to be out of the house — and that this would be
the case especially when the baby is due. Beyond giving that permission,
I offered a little advice of this sort. “School may be boring, but you
will have friends to play with there. It can be boring at home as well;
while I’m working I won’t be able to play with you as much as you might
like, nor will I be going over to Logo too frequently.” I offered to
take Miriam to Logo whenever I go there, either going over after school
or telling her in the morning of my plans.

Since that conversation, Miriam has several times declared she was
not going to school. She stayed in bed, and I didn’t argue or disapprove
at all. All those times she subsequently changed her mind, got dressed
in a rush, and hurried out to await the school bus.

Recently Miriam has learned two things at school she values. The
‘academic’ learning is that there are 2 sounds for the A vowel. She
knows one is long A and the other short A and that the first is
distinguished by its spelling with a terminal silent E. Her example of the
distinction was the couple HAT/HATE. She was not too interested when
I suggested we play with the voice box at the lab to make it talk with
long and short vowels. Miriam comments that she can’t remember learning
anything else besides the spelling of a few words — and one important
thing.

The student teacher of her class taught Miriam how to twirl a baton.
Baton twirling first engaged Miriam’s interest in kindergarten when her
friend Michelle brought hers to school. At Miriam’s request, I bought
her one which she has played with discontentedly since then. After her
one day’s instruction, Miriam has marched, posed, and practiced before
the glass doors of our china closet, declaring herself a “batonist” (a
word she is conscious of having made up.)

At Logo, too, Miriam’s current interests are primarily physical
skills. She plays with the computer (Wumpus, and lately some new facil-
ities I’ve shown her) but her first choices are the hula hoop or jump
rope. An incident occurring last night gives evidence of what may be
the outstanding consequence of her learning during The Intimate Study —
what I refer to is her sensitivity to instruction and advice couched in
procedure-oriented terms:

Miriam had convinced Margaret Minsky to turn a long rope for
Miriam’s jumping (the other end being tied to doorknob). Miriam tried
hard and long to jump into an already turning rope. She attended
carefully to the rope and at the right time moved toward the center —
but only a short distance in that direction. In consequence, she got
her head inside the space, but the turning rope regularly caught on her
arm. Miriam had no good answer when I asked if she could recognize the
specific problem. I asked if she could take some advice and said she
should jump onto a line between Margaret and the doorknob. Miriam could
not. I put a paper napkin on that line — but the turning rope picked
it up and away. José Valente drew a chalk line. Miriam took the chalk
and drew a box to jump into. Now she was ready.

Miriam’s first attempt failed because she jumped into her box with-
out attending to the rope. Then she regressed to watching the rope and
moving only a little. Finally, “Miriam,” I said, “you’ve got a bug in
your SETUP procedure. You’re doing only one thing at a time. You have
to do both things at once.” On her next try, Miriam jumped into the
turning rope successfully. I did not see her thereafter exhibit either
of her two earlier bugs (too little movement or not watching the rope).
This incident occupied about 3 minutes.

Relevance
Miriam finds school boring, but not depressing. Though allowed to
stay home, she goes to play with her friends. Of most immediate and
spontaneous interest to her are physical skills. She shows herself
very capable of using advice formulated in concrete terms focused on
separate procedures.

Vn11801

Vn118.1 Introducing Peggy 1/26/78

The calculated arrival date for Peggy, our new daughter, was
January 24th. Gretchen, because of her past experience with Robby and
Miriam who were both late, did not expect the birth until the very end
of January. This expectation was a source of some comfort over the
past weekend (Jan. 20-22) during which Boston was subject to a storm
which dumped 26 inches of snow in our area. This was the most snow
from a single storm in the city’s history. Had the baby come Friday
the 20th, a police escort to the hospital would have been our only
hope of getting there. I discussed with our landlord in more or less
serious jest a home delivery. (A psychiatrist, he offered to help as
much as he could but warned me he would not be especially useful.)

Two days passed; the roads were again usable though their
sides were piled high with snow. Gretchen woke me at 4:30 a.m. on
the 23rd, two hours after entering labor, and we proceeded to the
hospital with cautious haste. Arriving at 6 a.m., the obstetrician
predicted an 8:30 delivery. After a short time, he predicted an imminent
delivery. Peggy was born 10 minutes later at 6:46 a.m. This 4
hour labor was very short in contrast to 14 hours with Robby and 8 with
Miriam. Ninety minutes after delivery, with Peggy in her arms, Gretchen
was able to talk to Robby on the phone and tell him she and the baby
were well and feeling pretty good.

With the Monday morning arrival, our plan to take care of
Robby and Miriam had been straightforward. Our landlady would wake
the children and be available to help as they got dressed in preparation
for school. Should they return from school before I returned from
the hospital, she would be available then also, but the children were
to amuse themselves in our house. (The rare permission to watch after-
noon cartoons I expected to keep them out of mischief.) School was
canceled because of Friday’s snow. Robby and Miriam took care of
themselves quite well. They escaped any major mishaps during the day,
though infringing a few rules, i.e. they bounced on my bed as if it
were a trampoline. I met them at home after noon. Subsequently I
prepared an early supper and left them with permission to watch more
TV (a Charlie Brown special and “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”) while I returned
to the hospital.

The next day each child took a picture of Gretchen and Peggy
(made with Robby’s new Polaroid One-Step) and the good news to share
with their classmates. They visited the hospital late in the afternoon.
As Peggy was wheeled away from the viewing window, she flipped her arm
about. The children claimed she had waved good-bye and began squabbling
over whom Peggy had waved at.

I expected the children to be in school Thursday as I brought
Gretchen and Peggy home. School in Brookline was canceled again that
day, today. The children preferred being on their own this morning to
an indefinite wait in the hospital lobby. We are now 5 at home.

Vn11901

Vn119.1 Multiplying by Twenty 1/25/78

The children love to get mail and when an envelope comes addressed
to them, to open it. Each has a bank account concerning which they
receive annual earnings statements. The children opened their mail and
puzzled over the contents — a statement of account number, social
security number, and interest earned for the year with no specification
of the current balance. I checked for the latter because, as I explained
to them, I preferred their remaining ignorant because of their
inclination to blat to their friends what capitalists they are. I went
on that they shouldn’t go about bragging how much interest they had
received. “Why not?” I informed them that anyone knowing their interest
could estimate their capital simply by multiplying the dollar amount by
twenty.

Robby and Miriam realized they could circumvent my not telling them
of their bank balances, and Robby began to do so. Miriam lamented she
didn’t know how to multiply by twenty and received Robby’s promise of
help after he completed his own computation. A few days before he and
I had discussed a good trick for 10 times: just writing down an ‘extra’
zero on the right end of the number. Robby realized he could get the
desired result by doubling the interest (by addition), then adding a
zero. He became confused about manipulating the decimal point during
the 10-fold multiplication, but accepted my procedure for doing do. He
read his balance to Miriam, then went to help her.

Miriam followed Robby’s direction but set up the problem herself.
My role was limited to restraining him from taking over. No problem
with adding 2 plus 2. The carry first arose with 6 plus 6 (see Addendum
119 – 1). Miriam said, “I put down the 2 and carry the 1.” Robby
responded, “Right.” and when she went to mark a carry over the tens
column, he directed her to place it over the hundreds. With some labor
Miriam added 8 plus 8 and 9 plus 9, handling the carries appropriately.
Thus she had doubled $98.62. But what did the answer mean?

Miriam tried to read her answer 19724: “One thousand. . . one thousand
. . . .” She believed her result should be of the same order of magnitude
as his, but was lost because she could not coordinate that correct judgment,
her accurate computation, and the structure of the problem’s solution.
As Robby did at first also, Miriam neglected the 10-fold multiplication;
nor did she understand at all this good trick for 10 times (she had
never been exposed to it before). Comparing Robby’s work to her own
did not help. Rather than protract her frustration, I “showed” her what
to do. (This means I wrote in the decimal point and an arrow and mumbled
a few words). Miriam accepted my answer as correct and sensible.

Both children were able to rejoice once more at having outwitted
their dumb old Dad.

Relevance
The first incident shows the children applying their arithmetic
skills to a problem too difficult for Miriam. She can effectively execute
complex additions but does not dominate the number representations.
Her writing a carry mark at the top of the tens column shows her sense
that the 1 of 12 still belongs more to the 2 than to the left adjacent
column. I infer that Miriam is working out the problem of what a carry
means. She is very close to understanding. The second incident suggests
I follow up Miriam’s judgment that school arithmetic papers are hard;
why should she find them so?

Addendum

Adding by Miriam and Robby

Vn 119-1 Sums by Miriam and Robby

Vn12101

Vn121.1 Double Perspectives 2/8/78

While school has been canceled this week due to the Blizzard of ’78,
the children have spent a lot of time outside, playing on the snow
mountains the plows and people have piled up. Inside much of the time,
they have followed their own inclinations, playing the card game War,
reading Gretchen’s collection of Pogo and Peanuts books, drawing and
weaving.

Miriam has told repeatedly her most recent joke.

Miriam

What letter of the alphabet do you drink?
Victim

I don’t know.
Miriam

T. . . . T, E, A, get it? Tea.

In her turn, she has had to suffer our variations of her joke. A second
group of similar jokes is expressed in drawings Miriam made for me and
Robby. They are like puns in that the gift is coupled with a request
that you “find the hidden picture.” (Confer Addendum 121 – 1).

In the first picture, “the hidden picture” is a whale, underneath
the house, whose eye is formed by the ‘O’ of ‘TO’. When I asked how she
ever came to make such a picture, Miriam replied, “After I drew the hill,
I looked at it and saw it looked like a whale.” I surmise that the
whale’s mouth and tail fluke were later additions.

Subsequently Miriam made a gift for Robby, swearing me to secrecy.
(Confer Addendum 121 – 1). “The hidden picture” is once again a whale,
but rendered less incongruous by his rising under the boat. The whale’s
mouth says ‘TO ROBBY’ and his eye, pencilled in, has been covered over
by blue coloring both ocean and whale. The theme of sea warfare is a
direct catering to Robby’s taste.

Relevance
The seeing of some entity from two different perspectives is an
activity that is forward, a vanguard issue, in different areas of
Miriam’s concern, as documented here and otherwheres. It strikes me
I might help foster her understanding of carrying by posing for her
the problem, “What number is ten when you take it away and one when
you add it in?”

Addendum 121 – 1

Find the Hidden Picture

Vn 121-1 Hidden Pictures

Vn12301

Vn123.1 Computation Finale 2/12 & 14/78

2/12 Since completing Vignette 121 (Double Perspectives) I have tried
to engage Miriam in executing a difficult addition. My purpose was to
introduce the idea of a simultaneous, double perspective as what one
needs to appreciate carries by challenging her with a puzzle — “What
number is 10 when you take it away but 1 when you add it in?” Thus,
days ago, I wrote on my chalk board the problem: 22857 plus 47345.
(N.B.: this is the sum of Vignette 122 with addends inverted). Miriam
has refused to look at the problem because, as she explained at lunch
today, I had told her before that she had done so much arithmetic for
me she wouldn’t have to do any more.

She is quite correct, and I tried to make it clear she should feel
no pressure to do any more experiments with me. We continued talking
about how great her skill in computation has become. I speculated that
playing SHOOT at Logo was most important in her learning how to add.
Miriam disagreed and averred finger counting was most important; she
specifically identified her counting up procedure as the most useful.
I objected. Such a procedure was fine for small numbers but not for
big ones, such as 20 plus 30, because one does not have so many fingers.
Miriam demonstrated base-10 finger counting. . . and then generalized her
procedure for my confounding: 20, 40, 60, 80; 40, 80, 120, 160, 200.
I asked if she could count by 12’s. Miriam did so easily up to 60, then
continued on her second hand: “72, 84, 98 — no, 96. . . (a fairly long
pause), 1 hundred 8. She stopped at 9 twelves but answered “120” when
I asked her what the next number would be.

We discussed multiplication in passing. Miriam volunteered her
knowledge of 4 times 90 and when asked, said 2 times 90 was 180. She
was at first non-plussed when I inquired how many were 3 times 90. She
produced her result through counting up in decades from 180.

2/14 What an afternoon! The children and I returned late from shopping
(this was our first auto trip since the Blizzard of ’78 left us snow-
bound). We had gone out for staples, but on this Valentine’s Day
Miriam would have been heart-broken did I not stop to buy her some
heart-shaped candies (she was very explicit). During the course of
lunch, I promised the children we could play with the Logo Cuisenaire
rods afterwards. They ate quickly and began pestering, but I demanded
the right to finish at a relaxed pace the bottle of ale I enjoyed with
my lunch.

While I talked with Robby in the reading alcove, Miriam entered
that area and executed “the next experiment” before I was ready (as she
put it later, “on purpose, to trick you.”)


      10000  1000  100    10 
     |  2  |  2  |  8  |  5  |  7  |
  +  |  4  |  7  |  3  |  4  |  5  |
     _______________________________
     |  7  |  0  |  2  |  0  |  2  |

Miriam executed the sum perfectly, writing in the carries as I have
copied them above. When I asked how she could do this sum perfectly but
had manifested bugs on a similar sum days before, she replied, “I remem-
bered how to do the carries.” When Miriam had completed the sum and was
confident that it was correct, I recalled for her her jokes about “what letter
do you drink?” (cf. Vignette 121) and asked if she would like to try a
puzzle of mine. She agreed but was utterly unable to guess “what number
is 10 when you take it away and 1 when you add it back?” Miriam did
understand when I told her the answer was “a carry.”

Days later, Miriam told me she had enjoyed surprising me, doing
“the next experiment” before I was ready, because she likes to trick me.
But more, she said she would not have done it except for one thing: the
day was Valentine’s Day and her effort was a kind of present for me.

On this day, Valentine’s Day, the children and I spent the
afternoon playing with Cuisenaire rods, building the Logo-style right
rectangular polygonal spiral as described in Home Session 24.

Relevance
Miriam exhibits fairly clearly her grasp of carrying and distributed
addition is sufficiently strong that she will remember it. She may
produce occasional errors and may even suffer minor confusions, but
I believe she now understands distributed addition. By this I mean her
understanding of the parts and wholes of numbers in vertical form
addition will permit her to reconstruct the addition procedures she
needs however many times she forgets them.