Kids & Trading Cards Feed

Fake Yu-Gi-Oh! cards from my son's card collection.

My son Peter is home sick today. He showed me these interesting cards from his collection which he is reorganizing: Here are four fake Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. They are recognizable as fakes by the following traits:

  1. They are printed on generic holographic paper rather than having the pattern of the holography match the images.
  2. The holographc square present with authentic cards is either printed simply in black and white or is missing.
  3. The text on the cards seems to have been written by someone whose native language is not English and may or may not make sense.
  4. The printing of the art is muddy and some images show obvious evidence of Photoshopping.
  5. The printing of the back of the cards is of poor quality and in one case the logo is wrong.
  6. The logos in the upper right-hand corners (front of card) are wrong.
  7. The formatting of the cards is idiosyncratic and does not follow the format of the originals faithfully.

You can read the text on the full-sized version of the image. Here is a sample:

Activate it when your opponent declare the attacking on you. Your opponent will select will select one card on hand at random.

14207ANOTHER of today's sick-day activities was watching Defenders of Wildlife's 60-second cartoon, "Toast the Earth," commemorating Exxon's Mobil's declaration of the largest annual corporate profits in US history. It's got a nice little jingle. My 3-year-old asked to see it again, again!

Pokémon Cards & Folk-Mathematics

Through most of my career as a mother, I have made it a point of aligning my interests with my children's interests. This has taken me to many interesting places, taught me many interesting things, and even gotten me published in the science magazine Nature (reprint on Fantastic Metropolis).

I have made an exception for annoying fads, especially the Pokémon thing. (See my May 18th, 2003 post, "Pokémon Infestations and Other Matters.")

I realized in the middle of the night, night before last, that there was something big I had been missing about the whole phenomenon. Here is an out-take from what I wrote about it:

One puzzling phenomenon I've observed watching 2nd graders is how kids, who are only just getting basic addition and subtraction of multidigit numbers by the tail, can spend literally hours trading Pokemon cards (by which I mean 2 or 3 hours at a time). The decisions of whether or not to trade are based on multiple factors, some of which are linear functions like how many hit points does a given card have (or is the sum of the hit points of the two cards you are offering me equal to or greater than the hit points of the card of mine you want), and some of which are binary (is it a "shiny", i.e. a holographic card).
. . .
I spot-checked Peter's sense of the relative value of cards back in February. I had him show me what he thought of as his three best cards. I priced them on The cheapest of them came in at $47.00. I then had him show me three of his cards that he thought of as "not-so-good." priced those between 75 cents and $3.00.

Given what I know of the scholastically measurable of the math skills of the kids in question, there has to be some kind of pre-verbal calculation going on. They seem to me to be carrying out complex calculations involving multiple variables of different types, and arriving at basically correct conclusions via some kind of folk-math.
. . .
One other implication of this phenomenon, it seems to me, is that the equals sign, as a piece of mathematical notation, is highly socially embedded. I remember something about a second grade playground bead market at Ravenna during recess that spontaneously emerged and then spread until teachers banned it after a few weeks. It may be that there is a developmental phase around 7 or 8 in which the social embedding of trade is explored.

I would be interested in your anecdotes about young kids and card trading. I've decided to investigate further.

I should also say that this realization was inspired partly by Munir Fasheh's essay "Can We Eradicate Illiteracy Without Eradicating Illiterates?", an expansion on a paper given at a UNESCO meeting in Paris, on 9-10 September, 2002, to celebrate the International Literacy Day. The meeting was entitled "Literacy as Freedom."

In it, he dscribes his realization of his illiterate mother's mathematical sophistication:

My 'discovery' of my illiterate mother's mathematics, and how my mathematics and knowledge could neither detect nor comprehend her mathematics and knowledge, mark the biggest turning point in my life, and have had the greatest impact on my perception of knowledge, language, and their relationship to reality. Later, I realized that the invisibility of my mother's mathematics was not an isolated matter but a reflection of a wide phenomenon related to the dominant Western worldview. In this sense, the challenge facing communities everywhere, is to reclaim and revalue the diverse ways of learning, teaching, knowing, relating, doing, and expressing. This reclaiming has been the pivotal theme of my thinking and work for the last two decades.

My concern is not about statistical measures - for example, how many learn the alphabet - but about our perception of the learner and what happens to her/him in the process of learning the alphabet. My concern is to make sure that the learner does not lose what s/he already has; that literacy does not replace other forms of learning, knowing, and expressing; that literacy is not considered superior to other forms; and that the learner uses the alphabet rather than be used by it. My concern is to make sure that in the process of eradicating illiteracy, we do not crush illiterates.

In the 1970s, while I was working in schools and universities in the West Bank region in Palestine and trying to make sense out of mathematics, science and knowledge, I discovered that what I was looking for has been next to me, in my own home: my mother's mathematics and knowledge. She was a seamstress. Women would bring to her rectangular pieces of cloth in the morning; she would take few measures with colored chalk; by noon each rectangular piece is cut into 30 small pieces; and by the evening these scattered pieces are connected to form a new and beautiful whole. If this is not mathematics, I do not know what mathematics is. The fact that I could not see it for 35 years made me realize the power of language in what we see and what we do not see.

Her knowledge was embedded in life, like salt in food, in a way that made it invisible to me as an educated and literate person. I was trained to see things through official language and professional categories. In a very true sense, I discovered that my mother was illiterate in relation to my type of knowledge, but I was illiterate in terms of her type of understanding and knowledge. Thus, to describe her as illiterate and me as literate, in some absolute sense, reflects a narrow and distorted view of the real world and of reality. A division, which I find more significant than literate and illiterate, would be between people whose words are rooted in the cultural-social soil in which they live - like real flowers - and people who use words that may look bright and shiny but without roots - just like plastic flowers.

(It's a neat essay. Read the whole thing.)

Pokmon Infestations and Other Matters

GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL, or PARENTING THE POSTMODERN CHILD: While strolling the aisles in the grocery store, did you ever wonder why anyone in their right mind would buy a box of Pokmon facial tissue? I bought one last week, so I can tell you. Because I had already refused Peter's requests to buy Pokmon popsicles, Pokmon gummis, and several other Pokmon products which infest the grocery story. As we speak, I am within about an inch of rounding up all the Pokmon products in the house and consigning them to a plastic bag in the top of the closet. As nearly as I can tell, it is the goal of Pokmon marketers to place multiple Pokmon products in every aisle of the grocery store. I don't think they've made it to the produce aisle or the meat section (actually, there are probalby Pokmon chicken nuggets, though Peter hasn't brought them to my attention), but at this point I would not be surprised to find Pokmon dish washing detergent.

What precipitates this fuming on my part is that our evening was spoiled last night by Pokmon: we went grocery shopping and although I think I turned down about ten other Pokmon products, I said yes to Pokmon macaroni and cheese (a Kraft product). Peter had a total meltdown because I would not open the package instantly when we got home and cut out the collectible Pokmon coins on the back of the box. Somewhere out there someone is shaking their head and saying now here is a mother who just can't say no, but I did say no, over and over again. Consistency someone is muttering. We very consistently refuse to buy any toys or videos in the grocery store. So why did I buy Pokmon tissues? Because we actually needed tissues, and it didn't seem to me that buying Pokmon tissues would do any harm. And I bought the macaroni and cheese because he actually ate the Kraft macaroni and cheese we bought last time.

Now, despite my strong desire to establish a concentration camp for the cute but violent little creatures in the top of my closet, I'm not going to do it, not because I'm a wimpy parent who can't say no, but rather because it wouldn't do any good. Even if I succeeded in banishing Pokmon from my home, its scarcity would only make Peter desire it more. My son has excellent visual comprehension and my husband's collector's attention span for things he's really interested in. And if even I vanquish Pokmon, there's Scoobydoo, Yu-gi-oh!, Rescue Heroes, Blues Clues. Peter has an acute perception of fads and a pragmatic understanding of their role in the Westchester children's social web. Fads are what kids talk about and how they know who their friends are.

Rather, somehow I have to empower him to walk through the valley of the shadow of commerce without feeling that his very social existence hangs on whether he goes home with Pokmon macaroni and cheese. This is much harder than just saying no.

Why do marketers do this to Kindergartners? They are doing it on purpose. Because it pays. Creeps.

What I will probably do about the grocery store problem is to establish a rule that we do not buy food with recognizable cartoon characters on the package; I'm going to try that, though it may be difficult to enforce as tie-in marketers make new incursions into the grocery store.

ANYWAY, we went to Pleasantville Day yesterday. We got going too late for pancake breakfast because of small matters like paying bills and filing medical claims from the doctors' office receipts I'd been hoarding in my purse. It was a sunny but slightly chilly day. Elizabeth, in the stroller, slept through most of it. I managed not to come home with a goldfish. (Some outfit has a throwing game with live fish as prizes. I think they go up the street to Petland Discounts and buy a couple hundred feeder goldfish which cost about  five cents each and them let kids win them. Conscientious parents then have to go out and buy about twenty bucks worth of fish tank. The pet store in the center of town, which is not party to this, always has a run on fish supplies on Pleasantville Day.) Peter went on the merry-go-round and through the inflatable castle. I think his favorite part was the dance demonstration by students from a local dance school. Peter, who is very responsive to music, and is a pretty good dancer for an uncoordinated 5-year-old, danced along from the sidelines. He particularly liked their finale; he described the music as being like the "theme song to Power Rangers." Peter likes theme songs. Also, I saw something I'd never seen before: a father using his cellphone to video his daughter's dance performance. I think it was a Korean model. He said it holds half an hour of video.

The volunteer firemen were giving rides on the fire engine. But Peter never did get to ride on the fire engine even though we stood in line twice. As Peter explained, When I'm in line I don't want to be there. But when the fire engine comes I just want to be first in line.

Peter now has enough self-awareness to know that he was overstimulated and so didn't want to go to the Strawberry festival after lunch. Instead, he played in the yard with they neighbor kids, who were just discovering the interesting properties of the invisible swingset. Because swings hang from a rope rather than a fixed bar, kinetic energy transfers from one swing to the next quite fluidly. By the end of the day, the kids an I somehow ended up slightly sunburned.

We have some interesting wildflowers in the area of the circle of stumps. The jack-in-the-pulpit is in bloom, as are lots of little violets (and  of course dandylions).

The weirdest wildflower that grows around here is indian pipe, a plant that contains no chlorophyll. It's about the right time of year for them, but I haven't seen any yet this year. They grow under piles of leaves and eventually poke through. Until I looked them up a few years ago, I didn't know there were any flowering plants that didn't have chlorophyll.

There seem to be morrell mushrooms growing on our front lawn, but I'm not very confident in my knowledge of mushroom, so I don't think I'll cook them. The late Tad Dembinsky (formerly of the NYRSF staff), who knew a lot about mushrooms, was very enthusiastic about the mushrooms that grow in our yard. 

Also, I think we have a patch of goldenseal. In a doctor's office waiting room in the winter I was reading an article in a magazine, I think it was a National Geographic, about how scarce wild goldenseal was becoming, and I looked at the picture, and thought so that's what that stuff is.

I'm going to rake some leaves today  and see if I can find the indian pipe coming up. I wish we had a digital  camera so I could go around the yard snapping close-ups of these things.

POKMON UPDATE: Peter's first words to me this morning were after you get out of the bath will you please cut out my Pokmon coins? So far, I'm getting by on changing the subject. I think he may be having Pokmon maracroni and Cheese for breakfast so I can get this subject out of my life.

Yes, I know the South Park solution; even Peter knows the South Park solution  (pretend that we groupups think Pokmon is really cool so that the kids will move on to the next fad). But it wouldn't work: 5-year-olds still think their parents are cool. It would just make me an easy mark for all the other fads.

MEANWHILE: Elizabeth is trying to learn the art of knocking over piles of books.