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Limitless Malik: First grader counts to 10,000,000,000

limitless-a-600Malik Givens is a first grade student at White's Chapel Elementary School. He is the son of Erika Brown and the student of Valerie Smith. Malik is a very inquisitive and happy child. His younger twin siblings are in pre-K at White's Chapel also, and he loves being a big brother.

In room 1-02, (The Smithsmiles Classroom) there is a banner that asks the question, "Have you used your brain today?" Malik thinks it is fun to use your brain, and when he does, it makes him feel good all day.

A very creative artist, Malik also enjoys reading and writing large numbers. One day in December 2012, he completed a 100 grid as part of his morning work, and then asked Ms. Smith, if he could count to a billion. The question was surprising to her, coming from a six-year-old first grader.

"Of course you can, but you will have to practice by using base ten counting," she answered. Shortly thereafter, school recessed for the Christmas holiday.

January 2013 rolls around, and Malik was determined to complete his quest of counting to a billion upon his return to school. He practiced two to three times a week. He counted from (10 to 1,000), then from (1,000 to 100,000). After reaching that milestone, his classmates became a lot more interested in counting, just like their friend, Malik.

Not only was he a good counter, he loved helping others, so he volunteered to help his classmates – an instructor at age six.

Ms. Smith had laid the foundation for each and every one of her students to help each other.

"Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone. Use every chance you have for doing good. Whenever you possibly can, do good to those who need it. Never tell your neighbor to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now. That's what your parents mean when they tell you to be good today."

That's what she told them. She knows that learning takes place during whole group, small group, pairs and learning centers, where children also learn more about patterns by working together.

In order for Malik to continue his journey to count to a billion, Ms. Smith had to find or create a larger grid, and she did. The larger grid came from second grade teacher, Ms. Sue Collier, who was also following Malik's progress. This time Malik counted from 10,000 to 10,000,000.

With a big smile he said, "I really know the pattern, Ms. Smith." In her 20 years of teaching, Ms. Smith had never heard of nor seen a first-grader reading and writing such large numbers.

On a Monday in May, which just so happened to be Malik's 7th birthday, he came to class with his usual big smile and announced that his mother would be bringing cupcakes to everyone to help celebrate his birthday. After making the announcement, he asked Ms. Smith if he could count to a billion today.

"It's your Birthday! Go for It!" That's the reply he received.

Within minutes, Malik let his teacher and classmates know that he had reached 1,000,000,000. The entire class did a happy dance and shared lots of hugs and pats on the back. After all the excitement he worked for two more days and finally – he reached 10,000,000,000.

Malik asked his teacher, "What is the highest number in the world?"

Ms. Smith told him that numbers were infinite, which means that they are unlimited.

After a few moments, Malik replied, "WOW ... What comes after the billions?"

Ms. Smith told him it was trillions.

Malik said, "I can do that," and his teacher said, "WOW!"

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