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Count on It

I can’t do anything else when I’m counting.  One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten…it’s easy.  I’ve been doing it since I was 4, so why does it take my complete concentration to do it?  A friend called this morning and I had to ask him to wait a moment while I finished counting cars.  I couldn’t do it and listen to what he was saying. 


I listened to a program on The Infinite Mind, which was about multi-tasking.  In a nutshell, the research showed that we don’t actually do multiple tasks at the same time, our mind just switches back-and-forth so fast that it seems that way.  And women’s minds are better at it then men’s. But it doesn’t seem to work for counting, at least not for me.  I need to totally focus on what I’m counting if I’m going to get it correct.


I can do other things with numbers; data entry, graphing, statistical analysis; while talking or thinking about something else.  What is it about counting?  Something else must be going on in our brains.  Are we also sub-consciously categorizing, sequencing, and memorizing the list?


I knit dishcloths.  You start with 4 stitches and increase each row until you reach 46.  I don’t count until it looks like I’m getting close to 40 stitches.  I was on a 4 hour car ride with 2 other people and not driving so I took my knitting with me.  Inevitably one of the people would ask me a question while I was trying to counting and I would lose track of where I was and I had to ask them to repeat what they said.  As though the numbers and the words collided and canceled each other out.  Same thing with TV, I usually count out loud so that I can remember the number when I get done.  I guess it’s not just me because I remember that my grandmother, when she was knitting, would not only count out loud when someone was in the room with her, or the TV was on, but count in Flemish.  I asked her about it once and she said that despite all her years in America and fluency in English when it came to counting stitches she just couldn’t keep track of where she was any other way.


I was counting tennis balls to send in for recycling.  They have to go in lots of 250 or more.  Typha kept coming over and rubbing her head against my legs and I’d lose count.  It was maddening.  I finally took my boxes outside and counted in peace.


I wonder if we will ever unlock all the mysteries of the brain.  I don’t think I’ll count on it.

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Monique, I think there is


I think there is some research about our ability to concentrate when counting objects. Now I'm going to go search for it. I also found it interesting that a study released this past week stated that the better a child is at estimating amounts at three years of age, determined how well they handle math concepts later.

I've never been good at estimating. I pretty much suck at all but basic math.

I guess the research was correct.