Mental Catch

My son loves to quiz us, all day, every day. His topics range from chemistry, to geography, to history, to physics, to math, to chess. Never mind that neither my husband or I are experts in any of these subjects, he does it for the sheer joy of thinking. I often feel guilty that I can't quiz him on any relevant subjects, I know he would revel in the chance to give his brain a real exercise for once. Thank heavens for Sue, his indefatigable math teacher and friend! At least once a week he gets to match wits with someone who is well versed in his subject matter. My husband calls it "mental catch," other parents might go out to throw the ball around and play catch with their kids, we do it with ideas.

"Mom, why do they recommend bringing mercury thermometers inside when the temperature reaches about -35 degrees?"

"I thought they stopped using mercury in thermometers because it is dangerous," I say.

"No, they still use mercury thermometers in some places. They bring them in because mercury freezes at that temperature. In mercury thermometers which contain nitrogen, when it freezes the nitrogen bubbles can go into the mercury and when it warms up again the nitrogen bubbles will stay stuck in the mercury, making the thermometer unusable until it is sent to the factory for reconditioning."

"Okay..." I say.

He asked his Dad the other day, "Does Euclid say how to construct a regular pentagon in his Elements?"

Dad, "I don't know. Who is Euclid?"

Son, "He was a Greek mathematician, but not much is known about his life. Do you want me to show you Euclid's Elements?"

Dad, "Sure."

Son, "Euclid showed how to construct a regular pentagon using compass and straight edge..." And on it goes throughout the evening. I am an early to bed person, so my husband has to take the night shift. I often hear their mental catch sessions late into the night. My son never seems to tire, he takes right up where he left off with me the next morning. Sometimes he corners his sister, but she is usually pretty adept at dodge ball. Thank heavens there are two of us willing to tag team with him.

I guess we are providing some benefit, he solidifies his knowledge by teaching us what he knows, and if nothing else, he has a willing partner to toss his ideas back and forth. We probably drop the ball more often than we catch it, but our son is a patient teacher.