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Dad Tracks His Son’s First Words In Spreadsheets, Revealing Kids’ Astronomical Learning Curves

by Penn Collins

March 6, 2017

You don’t have to be a parent to know that children’s first words are a very important milestone. While some parents are lucky enough to capture their kids’ first words on video, one man, Reddit user JonJivan used the opportunity to kick off a pretty amazing exercise. 

The dad logged every one of his son’s words into a spreadsheet that tracks not only the child’s words, but also the age at which the words were said and the frequency of their use. 

As you’ll see, it doesn’t take long for his kid (and most others) to increase their vocabulary exponentially after getting that first difficult word out of the way. 

Here’s a graph showing the size of the child’s vocabulary over time, including which words were said at what times. 

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If you’re the type of quantitative person who wants the trajectory shown logarithmically, JonJivan’s got you covered there, too. 

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Interestingly, when you look at the growth curve from the time of his first word to present day (shown below), one mathematician on Reddit observed, “As a mathematician, that almost perfectly exponential growth is heartwarming."

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In the interest of keeping things scientific, JonJivan also explained his methods for recording, which are a bit stricter than most parents would use. 

“All words recorded were said in context (not simply a parroting of sounds) and had to be witnessed by both myself and my wife for confirmation. Tracking his words in Google Sheets was convenient because I could pull up the spreadsheet on my phone every time we heard a new word.”

In case you think he might be giving his son a little too much credit (and what parent wouldn’t?), he explains the criteria he uses for including a word on in the chart. 

“I did not go by perfect pronunciation, but it had to be about 75 percent there. There were many words I knew he was saying, but another person would likely not understand, even in context. For example, last night he was saying something that sounded like ‘mayma’ but he meant ‘banana.’ I would not count a word like this. But ‘eh-bo’ for ‘elbow’ was close enough, so it counted.”

If this is something that interests you, you’ll be happy to learn that the father is planning on continuing this study with his second son in May. He’ll track the newest addition’s progress along with his older brother’s. 

It’s likely to create a little bit of contention down the line when the grown kids are comparing their growth, but hopefully they’ll realize it was all in the name of science. 

 

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Dad Tracks His Son’s First Words In Spreadsheets, Revealing Kids’ Astronomical Learning Curves