This afternoon my 5 year old daughter asked me “what is a Bitcoin”? I replied that it is a prize you get when your computer solves a math problem. At its core a computer is factoring to get a Bitcoin. Factoring is figuring out all the combinations of numbers that equal another number via multiplication. For example the factors of 4 are 2×2, and 4×1. So we played a game.

The game is kind of like math Jeopardy. Since she is just in kindergarten we used addition instead of multiplication. Instead of asking her what is 3+2, i told her I would give her the math answer and she would have to tell me all the addition and subtraction sets that equal 5 for all whole numbers between 0 and 10. To mine bitcoins, your computer is factoring numbers as big as 4000 digits or more.

Since she is just in kindergarten, we kept the math problems to just addition and subtraction between 0 and 10. The first answer that I gave her was 5. I asked her to start telling me the combinations of addition and subtraction between 0 and 10 that equal 5. First she asked me if it was 4 +1. I told her that yes that does equal 5, but that was not the answer that I was looking for. She continued to give me answers. 3+2, 5+0, 6-1, 7-2, etc. Eventually she got the correct answer 9-4.

When she got the correct answer I awarded her a Bitcoin which she promptly traded for two carrot sticks. The next time she solved it she exchanged her Bitcoin for 3 carrot sticks. The next time I told her that her Bitcoin was only worth one carrot stick and asked her if she wanted one carrot now or would rather wait until the next one she solved and find out I’d she could get more carrots then. She took the one carrot. Appreciation might be a lesson for another day.

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