Beyond Facts & Flashcards

 I was sorting some books the other day and came across a favorite I’d forgotten about: Beyond Facts & Flashcards: Exploring Math with Your Kids.  It’s just how it sounds – a guide to facilitating discovery and building relationships with math that transcend the monotony of most math curricula.  When I came across it, it was all I could do not to spend the rest of the day rereading the whole thing.  I don’t say that about very many math resources.  Here’s the passage that made me swoon: “By now, many of us have learned from teachers and the media how we can help our children learn to read and write.  We know that kids benefit greatly from being read to every day and from having grown-ups listen to their reading.  It’s also important to encourage their writing – of notes, signs, stories, and songs.  It’s less clear what to do when it comes to math.  What is the mathematical equivalent of reading aloud? … Like our children, we seldom have experienced the depth, beauty, complexity, utility, and challenge of doing real mathematics.  Let’s face it: most of us have been mathematically deprived.  That makes it a lot harder to try to figure out what it is we’re supposed to do with our own children.”

This book goes a great distance in answering the question central to this passage – What is the mathematical equivalent of reading aloud?  What can parents do to lay the groundwork for understanding and building productive relationships with mathematical concepts?  The book includes an outline of what constitutes mathematical literacy and how to cultivate it as well as a series of specific activities adults can do with children to facilitate that literacy.  A few items from the activity list: Coupon Math, Waiting Around Math, Sick in Bed Math, Clean Clothes Math.

Amazon has a lengthy search-inside preview for purposes of reading more.  If you ever find yourself tormented by math, give this book a chance to make it otherwise.