He sat and thought about it for a long time. What times x equals y? To be honest, I didn't even know the answer at first. But after a few minutes of thinking through the problem in my backward kind of way, I figured out the answer. Now the hard part. How to get my son to find the answer on his own and understand why the answer was what it was. I began by telling him what he already knew and using that process he slowly figured out the answer. So slowly in fact that I could almost see the gears in his head turning as he tried to determine why the answer was so.
As I sat next to my son who was sprawled out on our family room floor, Harold Jacobs Elementary Algebra book open in front on him, I thought about how things would be different if he were attempting to figure out this problem in a public school classroom. Granted, the teacher would explain how to determine the answer in much the same way I would, but the time needed to really let the full understanding of why the answer was what it was sink into my son's brain would not be there. With many other children needing the teacher's time and attention, and the constant push to get all of the material covered for that day, the teacher and my son would have been forced to move on.
I think my son thought about that problem for a full five minutes and during that entire time, all I could think about was how important it was to allow him the time needed to digest this important building block of Algebra before moving on to new concepts. I also thought about how how busy fast paced classrooms with their many distractions, work against real learning. Taking the time needed to connect with and understand material so that kids can fully understand their subject is what slow schooling is all about. Going at kid speed, not school speed.