On Coffee, English Muffin, and Nature of Numbers

Saturday, July 20

Robert woke up a few minutes after me. His dad was still sleeping.  I was going to make our morning espresso but  decided to ask Robert to do it instead.   Although he has never made it before, he already knew more or less how to set it up; just the details were a little murky.  He put slightly too much coffee and thus had to clean the brim.  He did not put enough water, so he had to add more,  up to the white line.  He spilled a little and he did not tighten the top lid.   I helped him hold the cups to make frosted milk.  When coffee was ready, I asked him to tell dad.  He went to the bedroom, but did not say anything.  Maybe because he did not know what to say or how to say it or maybe he did not want to interrupt his father’s sleep.  Two hours later I asked Robert to make another espresso for us. He  set the espresso machine again, but he was not as happy as when he was doing it for the first time.  Maybe he already began to understand that what seemed excited and new might soon change into another boring obligation and he was not yet sure how he felt about it.

He made himself an English muffin for breakfast.  I reminded him to push  20 seconds on a microwave  to defrost the muffin and so he did.  Later,  he cut it in half,  toasted it, and ate it in a less than a minute.

A Few days ago, I gave him the same advice, but as I turned away to do something else, Robert entered 20 minutes instead of 20 seconds.  I stopped microwave after more than 2 minutes when the muffin was already boiling.

This is one of those (MY) errors which come from not understanding WHAT Robert knows and HOW he knows it.  I assumed that since he knows what 20 is, he would enter 20 seconds.  Instead he entered 20 minutes, as he is mostly using minutes to bake his potatoes.

A few times in the past, I demonstrated to Robert how to make his muffin, but he has never been fully independent. I should have been  watching Robert making his muffin for as long as he completes the whole process without an error.  I have never done that. Instead I assumed that a few incomplete demonstrations, and a general knowledge of what number 20 is, would suffice.  But, as Robert reminded me, in  real life number 20 doesn’t exist if it is not connected to real objects or units, and those might be as different as seconds are different from  minutes.

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