Saturday, April 28, 2007

Math is...


No. Make that Fun.

It all depends on your point of view.

Years ago there was a Barbie doll that said "Math is Hard" when the string in her back was pulled. People got upset, thinking this was going to give the wrong idea to young girls. (Okay, like Barbie is such a perfect role model otherwise, but that's another topic.)

My daughter didn't need a doll to tell her that though - she decided it all on her own. It's not that she can't do math (she can) - she just doesn't tend to think mathematically. She doesn't automatically see the patterns or naturally see the way problems can be solved.

I went on a quest to find something to help her. With a little (okay a lot) of help from Lissa, I discovered The I Hate Mathematics! Book and Math for Smartypants by Marilyn Burns. These books are great because they are not "workbooks." I knew that a workbook wouldn't work for Pippi. After all, she was convinced she hated math. I wasn't going to be able to get her to do more work. But I wanted her to get the idea that solving mathematical puzzles can be fun. And that's exactly what these books have. They have games to play - puzzles to solve (we still haven't figured out the King Arthur one) and fun activities. And none of it seems "mathy." But yet it is.

To see Pippi reading these books, and playing the games was very satisfying. At the very least it gave her a chance to see that math can be fun. Really fun. And even if that's all she gets out of it - that's enough.

Now, Harry is mathematically minded. He sees patterns quickly. He can do a lot of problems in his head. And he absolutely loves these books. He read the section on Factorials - and promptly figured out (using a calculator) how many different ways the nine players on his baseball team could be lined up (362,880).

As an aside - we were watching "Are you Smarter Than a Fifth Grader" with the kids one day - and one of the questions had to do with supplementary angles. I was reminding Pippi what supplementary and complementary angles are (she studied that this year) and Harry was very interested.

"Write that down for me," he said.

"I'm pretty sure you're not going to need to know this in first grade," I assured.

But that wasn't good enough and the next day I had to draw him angles and show him how it all works. He was enthralled.

So Harry thinks Math is Fun and Pippi thinks Math is Hard and they both love those new books we got.

Thanks, Lissa.

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