This past week I have been reading an exceptional book and would like to share it.
For many people, play and math are not words that go together. Yet in Sue Van Hattum’s book, “Playing With Math”, the two most definitely belong together.
Too many children and adults have math anxiety. Sue tries to dispel that by sharing numerous short stories written by teachers, homeschoolers and even young people who love or have come to love math.
There are numerous examples of ways to encourage and foster a love of math in children – through math circles, games, teaching practices. Each small chapter/story details ways of allowing children to play and discover math.
Interspersed throughout the book are math problems to solve or games to play. You are encouraged to solve or play the games yourself. Even though there are hints at the back of the book (check out for answers online), you are encouraged to keep trying without looking. “The learning comes from the struggle.”
There were so many interesting stories but three stood out for me:
1. “The Art of Inquiry” by Julia Brodsky
Julia started a math circle she called “the art of inquiry” as she wanted the children “to make mistakes and enjoy it”. Getting children to ask the right questions “what if? and “Why?” was crucial. The group met once a week and explored problem-solving.
2. “A Young Voice: Consider the Circle, A Space without Corners” by Elisa P. Vanott”
Elisa’s story touched me deeply. As a teacher, I try to ensure all children feel good about math. Elsa was made to feel like a number, that no one listened to her. Yes she was slower, but it took an amazing teacher to propel her into a world of problem solving where she blossomed.
3.”Radically Sensible Ideas: Math Advice for Homeschoolers” by Pam Sorooshian
A chapter filled with wisdom and so much advice for reducing math phobia and how playing games “is a really fun and easy way for children to develop mathematical thinking along with a lot of basic number skills.” “
“What do mathematicians do? They play games. …Pleasure, fun, challenge, strategy – it all of these.”
There are so many resources listed in the book – from websites, to books to the challenges themselves. Some excellent advice at the end of the book highlighted the need for parents to encourage their daughters to stick with math and enjoy it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have always loved math and enjoyed teaching math at the primary level. Although I have not studied advanced math, I do enjoy challenges. Sue’s book has rekindled my interest in playing with math again. As Luyi Zhang says “doing math for its own sake brings me an incredible amount of joy.”
Sue Van Hattum’s book comes out in the fall 0f 2014. I would highly recommend reading it. Visit her site here.