Talking Math with Your Kids

Danielson-Talking Math

Christopher Danielson, one of my favorite math bloggers, has a new book out that is perfect for parents of preschool and elementary-age children:

It’s a short book with plenty of great stories, advice, and conversation-starters. While Danielson writes directly to parents, the book will also interest grandparents, aunts & uncles, teachers, and anyone else who wants to help children notice and think about math in daily life.

You don’t need special skills to do this. If you can read with your kids, then you can talk math with them. You can support and encourage their developing mathematical minds.

You don’t need to love math. You don’t need to have been particularly successful in school mathematics. You just need to notice when your children are being curious about math, and you need some ideas for turning that curiosity into a conversation.

In nearly all circumstances, our conversations grow organically out of our everyday activity. We have not scheduled “talking math time” in our household. Instead, we talk about these things when it seems natural to do so, when the things we are doing (reading books, making lunch, riding in the car, etc) bump up against important mathematical ideas.

The dialogues in this book are intended to open your eyes to these opportunities in your own family’s life.

— Christopher Danielson
Talking Math with Your Kids


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How To Master Quadratic Equations

G'Day Math logo

feature photo above by Junya Ogura via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A couple of weeks ago, James Tanton launched a wonderful resource: a free online course devoted to quadratic equations. (And he promises more topics to come.)

Kitten and I have been working through the lessons, and she loves it!

We’re skimming through pre-algebra in our regular lessons, but she has enjoyed playing around with simple algebra since she was in kindergarten. She has a strong track record of thinking her way through math problems, and earlier this year she invented her own method for solving systems of equations with two unknowns. I would guess her background is approximately equal to an above-average algebra 1 student near the end of the first semester.

After few lessons of Tanton’s course, she proved — within the limits of experimental error — that a catenary (the curve formed by a hanging chain) cannot be described by a quadratic equation. Last Friday, she easily solved the following equations:

\left ( x+4 \right )^2 -1=80

and:

w^2 + 90 = 22 w - 31

and (though it took a bit more thought):

4x^2 + 4x + 4 = 172

We’ve spent less than half an hour a day on the course, as a supplement to our AoPS Pre-Algebra textbook. We watch each video together, pausing occasionally so she can try her hand at an equation before listening to Tanton’s explanation. Then (usually the next day) she reads the lesson and does the exercises on her own. So far, she hasn’t needed the answers in the Companion Guide to Quadratics, but she did use the “Dots on a Circle” activity — and knowing that she has the answers available helps her feel more independent.

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Moebius Noodles: New Must-Read Math Book

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Homeschoolers, after-schoolers, unschoolers, or anyone else: if you’re a parent with kids at home, you need this book. If you work with children in any way (grandparent, aunt/uncle, teacher, child care, baby sitter, etc.) you need this book. Or if you hated math in school and never understood how anyone could enjoy it, you need this book!

Moebius Noodles is a travel guide to the Math Universe for adventurous families (and it has lots of beautiful pictures, too!) featuring games and activities that draw out the rich, mathematical properties of everyday objects in ways accessible to parents and children:

  • A snowflake is an example of a fractal and an invitation to explore symmetry.
  • Cookies offer combinatorics and calculus games.
  • Paint chips come in beautiful gradients, and floor tiles form tessellations.

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Review: The Mathematics of Free Books

Books by somegeekintn[Photo by Casey Fleser.]

When I first heard about Swagbucks, I figured there had to be a catch. How could they give away real money just for using their search engine? But over the past four years, I’ve collected nearly $600 worth of freebies, mostly for doing internet searches I would have done anyway.

I trade in my Swagbucks for Amazon.com gift certificates, with which I’ve bought Christmas gifts, printer ink, groceries, and (splurging on myself!) several math books, including Paul Lockhart’s new Measurement.

Would you like to earn free books, too? Check it out:

  • Swagbucks Search & Win
    [To get a quick 50 Swagbucks, enter the code “SPRINGIN2SWAG” (for April 2013) when you sign up.]

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Let’s Play Math Book Update

I love math, but had forgotten why I developed a love for math in the first place. This book made me realize how experiences in my childhood lit a spark in me … Denise Gaskins shows us how we can ignite this fire in our own children.

I believe her suggestions are invaluable for homeschoolers, but essential for the many parents whose children are learning to dislike math in school.

— Carrie
Review at Amazon.com, December 1, 2012

If you’ve wavered on whether to pick up my math book, be warned: This is the last month for the introductory sale price. In January, the price will go up to $5.99 — which is still much less than what the original edition sells for, used.

Of course, if you’re a member of Amazon Prime, you can borrow the book (or my daughter’s novel) for free!

You don’t need a Kindle to read an Amazon.com ebook. You can access it on your computer, tablet, or smart phone using Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader or a Kindle Reading App.

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Reviews for my Daughter’s Book

I cleaned up the clutter on my other blog, and so I decided to make a page about my daughter’s book, which meant taking the time to pull out excerpts from her reviews. And since I hadn’t posted anything about her on this blog for a couple of months, I thought I’d brag a bit to you all, too.

Reviews of Banished

Banished is a captivating fantasy story with a well-thought-out plot that would be a credit to any writer. But it is especially remarkable coming from a thirteen-year-old student who has been homeschooled all her life.

Teresa Gaskins actually wrote this book as a project for the National Novel Writing Month program. One noteworthy thing about the book is that there is no sexuality or bad language (the euphemistic interjection “Blasted” is used once), so, other than those who object to the presence of any kind of magic in books, parents can let their kids read the novel with no reservations.

However, be forewarned. When you reach the final page and find the words, “Not the End…,” you will cry, “Oh! No!” The story does not resolve itself at the end and then pick up in a sequel. Rather, the plot is left hanging at the end and will continue in another book. I for one feel as if I simply can’t wait to read the next installment to find out what happens to Chris and his friends. It’s that good!

— Wayne at Home School Book Review

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Raymond Smullyan Excerpts at Dover Publications

To celebrate their re-release of his classic puzzle books, the Dover Math and Science Newsletter featured an interview with Raymond Smullyan, as well as several extended excerpts from his books. (For my math club students: Professor Smullyan invented the Knights and Knaves puzzles.) Enjoy!


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What I’m Reading: Fermat’s Enigma

Homeschooling is much more than just doing school at home — it’s a lifelong lifestyle of learning. And thanks to the modern miracle of inter-library loan, even those of us who live in the middle of nowhere can get just about any book sent directly to our tiny home-town libraries.

As I mentioned in Math Teachers at Play 46, I’m trying to add more living books about math to our homeschool schedule, including my own self-education reading. So, a copy of Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem finally showed up at my library, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

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Review/Giveaway and Fibonacci Puzzle

Thanks to author Keith Devlin’s generosity, I am giving away FIVE copies of his new e-book Leonardo and Steve: The Young Genius Who Beat Apple to Market by 800 Years (at the end of this review post), PLUS a signed copy of his latest print book, The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution.

What Leonardo did was every bit as revolutionary as the personal computer pioneers who in the 1980s took computing from a small group of “computer types” and made computers available to, and usable by, anyone. Like them, most of the credit for inventing and developing the methods Leonardo described in Liber Abbaci* goes to others, in particular Indian and Arabic scholars over many centuries. Leonardo’s role was to “package” and “sell” the new methods to the world.

The appearance of Leonardo’s book not only prepared the stage for the development of modern (symbolic) algebra, and hence modern mathematics, it also marked the beginning of the modern financial system and the way of doing business that depends on sophisticated banking methods.

Keith Devlin
Fibonacci’s ‘Numbers’: The Man Behind The Math
excerpt from The Man of Numbers

* Leonardo of Pisa, also known as Fibonacci, used two b’s in the word “calculation” (abbaci) to distinguish his methods from the use of an abacus.

Can You Solve This Fibonacci Puzzle?

If you want a chance to win a personally signed copy of The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution, all you have to do is solve this riddle.

Email me your answer.

Do NOT give your answer as a comment here! If that email link doesn’t work for you, then copy my address by hand: lets play math [no spaces] at gmail dot com.

Here is the puzzle:

The Fibonacci sequence arises in the solution to a problem about a breeding rabbit population that Leonardo gave in Liber Abbaci.

But there is evidence that in another book he gave the problem in terms of different creatures. What were they?

[Hint: The answer is in the e-book, Leonardo & Steve. But this is a no-purchase-necessary contest: There are at least two places to find the answer online, if you search carefully.]

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Free Math from Dover Publications

I love Dover books, don’t you? They publish so-o-o-o-o many interesting titles at reasonable prices. I always have several Dover books on my wishlist, waiting for my next free gift card from Swagbucks.

But you don’t have to wait to enjoy free math from Dover books. Sign up for the Dover Sampler, and each week they will send an email with links to content from all sorts of books. Or try the Dover Children’s Sampler and Dover Teacher’s Sampler for coloring books, mazes, literature, and more. All the Dover samplers are completely free, and you can cancel at any time.

From Last Week’s Sampler

Last week’s email included a section on “Exploring Mathematics”:

And that’s only the beginning. Below, I’ve listed a wide variety of math-related links collected from past samplers (though be warned: Dover does change its page links from time to time). Download, print, enjoy!

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Arithmetic Village Books

Thanks to the generosity of author Kimberly Moore, I am giving away a complete set of the beautiful Arithmetic Village picture books. You can read the first book free online.

When you think of math do you think of a light-hearted fairy tale?

No? Then come and meet some of the delightful characters who live in Arithmetic Village.

Polly Plus collects jewels slowly and methodically, Linus Minus is carefree and loses his. Tina Times and King David Divide… well you’ll see.

The first book offers the overview of the math concepts. These are then demonstrated through the lives of each character. The books are designed to be supported by a manipulative kit [homemade: see video below] with 100 jewels, 10 golden bags, and a treasure chest…

— Kimberly Moore
Proposal: Arithmetic Village

My fantasy-loving daughter Kitten would have been thrilled with this math program when she was little, just as this 6yo girl was. But it’s not just for girls — here is a thorough review by a homeschool mom of two boys.

Visit the Arithmetic Village website to read more about the books and explore the activity pages (links under each topic in the main page menu). Or check out Kim’s YouTube videos for activity ideas.

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What Is the Name of This Book? … Is Back!

In the process of updating old book links (and otherwise cleaning up old posts), I’ve been spending more time than normal at the bookstore. I just noticed that Raymond Smullyan’s What Is the Name of This Book? is scheduled to come out this August — and it’s already available for pre-order. WooHoo!

Can To Mock a Mockingbird be far behind? Oh, and Alice in Puzzleland — I want that one, too!


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Review: Math Mammoth

When Maria of Homeschool Math Blog asked if I would review her Math Mammoth curriculum, I jumped at the chance. I’ve always enjoyed her blog posts, and I liked the worksheets I had seen on her website. (Maria gives away more than 300 pages absolutely free!)

She sent me her then-new 4th grade worktexts, and Kitten and I dug in.

Well, that was longer ago than I care to admit. But of course, it takes quite a bit of daily use before one can be absolutely sure of one’s opinion about a homeschool program — or at least, it does for me. Too many times a homeschool resource will look great in the catalog, and we’ll start it with high hopes only to bog down in the day-to-day grind and abandon it after a few weeks or months. So I wanted to give Math Mammoth a thorough workout before I wrote this review.

And all excuses aside, I really am a pro at crastinating. . .

My aim is to help parents and teachers teach math so our children and students can really understand what is going on. I’ve strived to explain the concepts so that both the teacher and the student can “get it” by reading the explanations in the books.

— Maria Miller
author of Math Mammoth worktexts
and Homeschool Math Blog

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Free Books? What’s the Catch?


[Photo by Jayel Aheram.]

When I first read about Swagbucks, I figured there had to be a catch. How could they give away $5 Amazon.com gift certificates just for using their search engine? But over the past 12 months, I’ve collected $45 worth of free books, just for doing searches I would have done anyway. I bought a couple of Christmas gifts and an Ed Zaccaro book to supplement Kitten’s schoolwork.

If you’d like to try it out for yourself:

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New Edition of Must-Read Math Book

I thought I knew math fairly well.

I thought arithmetic was boring.

I thought the reason other nations beat America in international math tests was that their students worked harder than ours.

I thought all sorts of silly things before I read Liping Ma’s Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics. Now this must-read book is coming out in a new edition, due in bookstores next week.

I can hardly wait!

In American elementary mathematics education, arithmetic is viewed as negligible, sometimes even with pity and disdain—like Cinderella in her stepmother’s house. Many people seem to believe that arithmetic is only composed of a multitude of “math facts” and a handful of algorithms. . . Who would expect that the intellectual demand for learning such a subject actually is challenging and exciting?

Liping Ma
Arithmetic in American Mathematics Education: An Abandoned Arena?

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Have a Mathy Christmas

A mathematical Christmas? You bet! For instance, I just noticed that Raymond Smullyan’s The Lady or the Tiger is finally back in print. My family and my math club students have enjoyed many of the puzzles in this book over the years, and I can’t think of a better stocking stuffer for the mathophile in your family.

(I do hope that means the rest of Raymond Smullyan’s puzzle books will be coming back, too!)

In the holiday gift-giving spirit, I’ve started making a list. Check out the links below for more mathematical Christmas present ideas.

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Review: Kiss My Math

Pre-algebra students stand at the threshold of adventure. Behind them lie the rocky plains of school arithmetic. Ahead, the trail winds into a murky, tangled woods and disappears in the shadows. Who knows what monsters might live in a place like that?

Actress and math maven Danica McKellar has traveled through the pre-algebra jungle and beyond, up the slopes to higher math. She survived the journey, and now, on the heels of her bestselling book for math-phobic middle schoolers, she has written Kiss My Math to guide uncertain students along their way.

Unlike the case with most Hollywood movies, this sequel is an improvement.

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Review: Math Doesn’t Suck

We’ve all heard the saying, Don’t judge a book by its cover, but I did it anyway. Well, not by the cover, exactly — I also flipped through the table of contents and read the short introduction. And I said to myself, “I don’t talk like this. I don’t let my kids talk like this. Why should I want to read a book that talks like this? I’ll leave it to the public school kids, who are surely used to worse.”

Okay, I admit it: I’m a bit of a prude. And it caused me to miss out on a good book. But now Danica McKellar‘s second book is out, and the first one has been released in paperback. A friendly PR lady emailed to offer me a couple of review copies, so I gave Math Doesn’t Suck a second chance.

I’m so glad I did.

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