Friday, June 20, 2014

Playing with Math

I just finished a nonfictional Romance Book called "Playing with Math", edited by Sue VanHattum. It's filled with passion (for math), joy (of games and puzzles), good-looking heroes and heroines (math makes you sexy), conflict and tension (hello math haters and standardized tests), and a warm and fuzzy resolution (math conquers all). Okay, it's not really a romance novel, but the passion about math is threaded throughout the whole book. There's basically something for everyone, whether you are a math teacher of any sort, a parent, or a math enthusiast.

I teach in a public school to goofy high school students, so I can only give my perspective as a non-mother, non-math-circle-participant, non-unschooler, non-homeschooler. But just like in math, where you see patterns in one problem and can then extrapolate to solve OTHER problems, in this book, I could read about the variety of settings, and always find something that I can either take back to my classroom or take back to my mind to work on. 

Every other chapter is a math problem of some sort. These range in levels of difficulty and variety of math concepts. Many times I found myself putting the book down and pondering the cool problems and figuring them out. There are also a ton of resources listed, from books, to online options, to people you could e-mail and start a discussion with. This wealth of goodies in itself is a reason to read "Playing with Math".

Before I read this book, I only had my biased, public-school-teacher opinion of homeschooling and had never heard of unschooling. Through the various sections and vignettes shown, my opinions were swayed with an understanding of how such situations could be in the best interest of different students, and how kids could thrive. And even if I won't rush out and un-enroll my non-existent offspring and start unschooling their imaginary selves, I did find myself taking notes on each chapter to remember great quotes and philosophies and teaching techniques that I'd like to remember and adapt to my classroom.

I also enjoyed to peek into things I didn't know existed. There is a section on taking a math circle to a prison, and the nonthreatening and successful way the teachers engaged with the men. There is a section about the nonlinearity of learning math, written in a nonlinear and creative fashion, and it's filled with words I want to mull over and process. And these are just a few examples.

Whether you want to have a new source of good math puzzles, or find out how to start a math circle, or re-engage your love of math, or find more things/thoughts/techniques to bring back to your class this coming fall, or simply to stay awhile in the company of others that love math as much as you do, I think you can't go wrong with this book.

5 comments:

  1. Are you reading galleys? The link says it won't be published until Fall 2014? On my todo list is "more math puzzles!"

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    1. Hi LadyMath. Yes, I got to read an advanced copy, and I love your todo list.

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  2. Thank you, Shireen, for a lovely review.

    LadyMath, you can reserve a copy by contributing $25 to our crowd-funding campaign that started today. It's at https://www.incited.org/en/projects/4992-Playing-With-Math---the-Book.

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  3. Thanks for the review. I too teach those goofy high schoolers and I look forward to learning from this book in the Fall.

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    1. Thanks Maglovesmath ... hopefully we can spark some more "playing" interest in math.

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