A book recommendation

Sue VanHattum is a fellow community college teacher and a friend of the project. She cares deeply about math, about parents and kids, and about bringing those three things together for fun and for learning.

She has compiled and edited a book, titled Playing with Math filled with the writing of other wonderful people. Honestly, some of my favorite writers about math and teaching are this compilation. If you don’t have time to seek out amazing writing about math learning on the web, Sue brings Fawn Nguyen, Kate Nowak, Paul Salomon, Malke Rosenfeld, Avery Pickford….so many talented writers and teachers to you in one neat package.


She is crowdfunding the publication of this book. Any contribution helps make the book a physical reality. For 9 bucks, you’ll get an electronic copy. For 25 bucks, you’ll get a hard copy once it is produced. For 5 grand, she’ll come lead a math playtime with your group!

I have put it on my summer reading list. You should too.

Playing With Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and Passionate Teachers has over 30 authors, who each tell their delightful stories of sharing their enthusiasm for math with others. It was lovingly compiled and edited by a teacher whose passion is to share the love of math with as many people as she can.

Short notes

I passed a lovely morning with some math teacher friends at the Museum of Math in New York City today. Sadly, I did not have Griffin or Tabitha along. We would have had a ball.

I have three observations…

One. There is lots for kids to do there. It is truly a bonanza of mathematical conversation starters. I left wanting to be hired on as “Docent for Talking Math with Your Kids”. This is because the math does not smack you in the face. Instead, the math in the exhibits tends to surface in the process of playing, experimenting and paying very careful attention to what is going on.

In short, you want to talk about these exhibits and you want to linger.

Two. Many of the exhibits are designed in ways that allow kids to play and to do math beyond the intended activity. The exhibit below, for example, kept two little boys (each 5 or 6 years old) busy for 20 minutes although the original activity was way beyond them.

The first five minutes, they were sharing each of the shapes equally, making sure each of the two boys had the same number of squares, and the same number of triangles, et cetera. The next 10 minutes, they spent arranging the shapes on the screen, marveling at the things this provoked on the screen beneath.

It was lovely.

It could have been a bummer, though. If someone had insisted on doing the intended activity, these kids could not have done it. If the shapes had been electronic instead of concrete, the kids would not have been able to play with them in such creative ways.

Well done, Museum of Math!

Three. On the subway train back to my hotel, I noticed a little girl—probably 4 years old—holding up four fingers as she sat between her mother and brother.

I moved to be in listening range.

It turns out, she had been told they would be on the train for five stops. She had been putting up one additional finger as the train left each stop.

Sister (4 years old): [She is holding up four fingers as the train enters the station] This is our stop!

Brother (8 years old): No. The sign says there’s one more stop.

Sister: But you said five stops.

Mom: One more, sweetie.

The train stops. People get off and on. The doors close. The train starts up again.

The girl keeps exactly four fingers up the whole time.

The Read-Aloud Handbook of math

Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook is lovely and very helpful for parents wanting to immerse their children in the world of written and spoken language, stories and books.

I aspire to creating the math version of this; the Read-Aloud Handbook of Math in a sense.

Here is how he began.

The dearth of accessible material inspired him to write and self-publish the first edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook in 1979. “I self-published because I never thought any of the major publishers would be interested in it. At that point, ‘reading aloud’ was too simple and not painful enough to do the child any good. At least, that’s what many educators thought,” he says in hindsight. But that mindset would soon change.

His book is now in its seventh edition and has sold nearly 2 million copies.

Wish me luck, OK?

Talking Math with Your Kids on Kindle!

Someday there will be a full-sized paper version of a Talking Math with Your Kids book (Hear that publishers? Wanna talk? You can find me at the About/Contact page.)

Until that day, there is now a mini-version (15,000 words; roughly three chapters, $4.99) available on Kindle (and readable on other devices with the Kindle app).

Tabitha is thrilled with the news!

It is aimed at parents of children from 3—9 years of age. Parents of older or younger children will likely be able to extend the ideas to their own situations, too.

Go have a look, won’t you? Share widely and let me know what you think.

Table of contents is:

  1. Introduction
  2. Counting and other adventures in number language
  3. Adding and subtracting: Two peas in a pod
  4. Conclusion
  5. References and further reading

About 1/3 of the conversations in the book have been previously documented here and/or on my blog Overthinking My Teaching. The rest are new to readers. Also, there is a ton of new content summarizing research and the mathematical development of children in parent-friendly ways.

Early response has been awesome.

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