The Math Adventure Continues

-posted by Meghan

Molly & Jacob will be starting Kindergarten next fall.  Since we live in Los Angeles, that means I get to spend this whole fall freaking out, touring all the various charter, magnet, & neighborhood schools, determining what size, focus, and educational philosophy works best for both of my kids.  And then freaking out again.  So I’ve been thinking about what I like and dislike about the ways schools are set up and taught, and the only conclusion I’ve come to so far is that preschool is perfect.  It’s a multi-age room.  There are no grades.  And there is no separation of subjects – when they study dinosaurs, they talk about science, math, history and literature, but it’s all rolled into one long free flowing (partially student led) exploration.  When I think about friends who hate math, they’re thinking about an isolated Geometry class in high school – not the concept of the beauty of math in our everyday world.  And that’s what we both loved in all of these books – they continue to roll math into something beautiful and useful and a part of other thoughts and discussions and ideas.  These books all fall somewhere in the middle – they are more than a picture book, but an easier read than a YA novel.  And they hold the interest of a wide age range, as they beautifully illustrate either a mathematical principal, or a way to see the world using math…

Our current favorite:

You Can Count on Monsters by Richard Evan Schwartz

I love this book.   My 4 1/2 year old twins love this book.  My husband who tutored calculus throughout college and is really, really, really good at higher math loves this book.  You will love this book.  Beginning with an explanation of multiplication, prime numbers, composites and factorization that will lose your average 4 (or possibly even 10) year old, but will refresh adults, it turns into an art project which shows each number 1-100 as a monster made up of it’s prime composites.  A factor tree and dot groupings on one side of the page show how a number is broken down into it’s smallest factors, and then those numbers are each represented as a monster that somehow incorporates that number into its being.  So the monster of ’27’ is illustrated by three ‘3’ monsters (triangle heads denote their ‘three-ness’) cavorting together. Part art, part visual poetry, all math. If you’re not someone who sees the world in numbers, or the beautiful patterns in math, this will help you begin to think this way.

And some more wonderful ones:

A Very Improbable Story:  A Math Adventure by Edward Einhorn

The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas

Tiger Math:  Learning to Graph from a Baby Tiger by Ann Whitehead Nagda

Crimes and Mathdemeanors by Leith Hathout

The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine

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