Unschooling Roman numerals

Roman Numbers on Cutty Sark

We’re reading Rick Riordan’s Mark of Athena right now (continuing Cinder and Flora’s 18-month-long love affair with Percy Jackson and the Olympians–see How Cinder and Flora became Hellenic Pagans). The chapter numbers are in Roman numerals (of course). We’ve talked about Roman numerals before, countless times, but it hasn’t really stuck–this time, Cinder and Flora are totally into it, and I’m reading all the chapter numbers as (V+I+I+I) and (X-1) and (X+X+X+V+I+I) and they’re howling, and adding up the numbers (hey, Mom, look! They’re doing math!), and asking how you’d write Chapter 50 and other bigger numbers, and I tell them about L, C and M and finally, Cinder looks at me very seriously and says:

Mom? Were the Romans really bad at math, or were they just douchebags?

And as I pause and ponder… a) precisely what it is he’s trying to get at and b) how to answer it (can you build the world’s greatest empire without being a douchebag? Not really. Should my son be tossing the word douchebag around randomly? Not really. Is it appropriate in this context? Well, yeah. But what does it have to do with Roman numerals, the last topic of conversation?) … Cinder comes back with,

Well, they were really great engineers so they had to be good at math. So I guess they were just douchebags and wanted to make math really difficult for people.

Um. OK. We’ll just leave it there for now.

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One response to “Unschooling Roman numerals

  1. Pingback: Of boys and their toys | Nothing By The Book·

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