I started unschooling when my younger son was 5 years old. I did not teach him math or reading. This is because my friend who is a teacher in New York City public schools, told me that everyone in the school system knows that you don’t have to teach most kids to read — they teach themselves. You only need to teach socially or economically disadvantaged kids how to read.

I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. So I didn’t teach my son to read. And at some point, I realized he learned to read in order to play video games. I wasn’t surprised, because around that time MIT was showing that even kids who don’t have literate parents can teach themselves to read.

I also did not teach my son math. I read studies that said that kids do not need to formally learn math until 7th grade. This is because basic arithmetic is something people learn like they learn language. And other math skills kids can pick up much faster if you just wait.

So I waited. But now he’s 13 years old, and a few weeks ago, when I thought he would be going to boarding school, he said, “Mom, I have to learn math.”

So, I taught him math. We started at the beginning so we didn’t miss anything. He learned 1st grade through 4th grade in one day. Mostly he was missing the words for concepts he already understood, like “circle graphs.”

The next day we learned 5th grade and 6th grade. Often I would say, “How did you learn that?” And he’d say, “From video games.”

He learned the rule for when you round up from Minecraft because when you mine for gems you only need three to get to five.

He learned penta- is 5 and hex- is 6 because in League of Legends the game calls it a pentakill, hexakill, etc.

He got to 7th grade math in three days. Easily. I have dyscalculia and I was nearly unable to teach him. So he did it himself toward the end.

I’m not saying he can go to Math Olympiad, but he did get through the common core in three days. So surely he did not need a bunch of math earlier than 7th grade unless he was expecting to be a math god.

I was shocked by how many math concepts he had to learn during his gazillion hours of video-game playing. I don’t think that proves video games are educational so much as it proves that kids discover basic math over the course of a normal problem-solving childhood. You don’t have to teach it.