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Jolly Solly: By the Numbers

R. Atkins

From them on, Miriam was busy finding numbers everywhere. She would check the letters that came in the mail, and read the numbers on the address; she’d read the numbers on the tuna cans in the closet, listing the weight of the contents…

Thursday, April 20, 2017

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M iriam came home from Morah’s looking very pleased with herself one day.

“I know numbers!” she announced grandly.

Moishy tested her, pointing at the numbers on the height chart in their bedroom, and indeed, she knew all the numbers from one to ten. Anything bigger, she called a “million shkillion.”

From them on, Miriam was busy finding numbers everywhere. She would check the letters that came in the mail, and read the numbers on the address; she’d read the numbers on the tuna cans in the closet, listing the weight of the contents. And when she ran out of numbers to read, she begged Moishy to play school with her and write numbers on the little easel they shared.

“Well, all right, just for a bit,” agreed Moishy, who really would rather have spent his time practicing with the new set of juggling balls Jolly Solly had given him. Moishy and Miriam played a game where he was the teacher and wrote a number on the easel, and Miriam had to see how quickly she could name it. She sailed through her numbers effortlessly, until Moishy wrote a large 0.

“Circle,” declared Miriam at once.

Moishy shook his head. “You need to say a number.”

“But it’s round, so it’s a circle,” protested Miriam. “Dat’s what Morah told us. And if it’s a box-shape it’s a square, and if it’s—”

“That’s when you’re doing shapes,” Moishy corrected her. “Now we’re doing numbers.”

 

Moishy explained that it was called zero, and it meant “nothing.”

Miriam couldn’t make heads or tails of this. At Morah’s, they were always practicing numbers. Morah would put pretzels on their plates, and they would count how many. Or Morah would choose someone to give out five pretzels to each girl, and everyone would watch carefully to make sure she counted properly so all was fair and square. But what was the point of a number that meant “nothing”? (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 656)

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