Another good game

Here’s another fun and think-y game to try: Combo King, from Gamewright.

It’s got some in common with Yahtzee (rolling for particular combinations of things, adding, multiplying, etc.) but changes itself up from one turn to the next for, it seems, a more dynamic kind of play.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m a Yahtzee fan, too.  I just think this one might make a good precursor and/or alternative with some of the same or more fun and benefit.

And I recommend keeping the whole book/cover judgment adage in mind…

Raising participants

One of the arguments I hear for keeping kids in traditional school programs, even when those programs are not working, is that if you “let” kids focus on what they’re interested in and already good at, they’ll become too self-centered and involved in their own thing.  They won’t learn to be of service.  They won’t learn to think of others. They won’t be good citizens.  Also, I hear adults say, kids are already too self-involved thanks to social media; supporting their interests will only make it worse.

What’s missing from this argument is the acknowledgment that we’ve put kids in the position of having to defend their interests, to protect what matters to them from what we’d have them do instead.  By demanding that they spend most of their time on what we choose, we intensify their self-involvement. Continue reading

Mathematician’s Lament…

I’m not sure how I didn’t know about this book already, but I’m glad I do now.  It’s called  A Mathematician’s Lament, and begins with the following quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

It’s not every day that a book about math, or anything about math for that matter, invokes… well, humanity.  That was my experience in reading through this excerpt.  If you’re someone who loves math, or dreads it, or worries how you’ll ever help your kids learn it, have a look at the excerpt and see if this one might be for you.

Exercise for the brain…

Solitaire has acquired the reputation for being a popular way to waste time in an office job.  It certainly can be that, but it’s also an opportunity for building mental agility and acuity.  It can also be very meditative, fun, and otherwise great, for some.  For others, it’s terrifically boring.

If you happen to know a young person who might fall into that some category, here’s a book I came across today. It looks good – the explanations appear to be clear, and the illustrations, sharp and fun to look at…

Reference can help the brain do its best work

The other day I was sitting with an 8 year-old as she wrote out the date.  At one point she turned to look behind her at the analog clock on the wall.  “I always look at the clock to make sure my 9 is going the right way,” she told me.

Kids who know they’re prone to reversing letters often do a similar thing with the giant alphabets that hang in most elementary classrooms.  Here are a few other examples of reference options that can be helpful.

* a copy of the lower case letters, written out on wide-ruled paper with the dotted midline, for a child making the transition from all upper case

* a summary of the symbols used in a college math text

* the spellings of frequently used words

* the multiplication table

* the layout of the QWERTY keyboard

But aren’t these the things the students in question are supposed to be learning?  Won’t they not learn them if they’re just looking things up all the time?  Isn’t that cheating? Continue reading

Marmaduke Multiply’s

I’ve lots to say about the flurry of ongoing excitement over Multiplication Facts, as they were, but as long as they continue to torment and elude many a young person (and older person, come to think of it), I shall continue to look for ways to make it a smoother ride.  The other day in the course of perusing my favorite algebra text, I came across a very old book that might do just that for some with a sense of humor and/or a taste for the old-fashioned.  (I’m never sure what “old-fashioned” refers to, but I’m quite sure that this qualifies.)  It’s called Marmaduke Multiply’s, and as far as I can tell it was originally published in 1841.  It’s been reprinted several times since, as demonstrated by the fact that you can order a copy for which you’ll be asked to pay anywhere from $.01 to $209.99.  To get a taste of it, and read about the pages that were modified along the way, have a look at Google’s book search.


Good Math Match

I was recommending a couple of math books today and realized that Marilyn Burns’* The I Hate Mathematics Book and Math for Smarty Pants make a good team.  The material is similar – offers a wider view of math than many publications and party lines – but the titles invite their readers to adhere to much different attitudes and standpoints about the whole business.  I don’t tend to encourage people to go around saying they hate math, but for those who are already saying it, or things like it, The I Hate Mathematics Book is a good way to find out otherwise.  A pairing with Math for Smarty Pants offers an opportunity to play with the love/hate relationship math can inspire, but also to inspire all kinds of intelligence and brilliance.

* Marilyn Burns is actually one of three authors on The I Hate Mathematics Book (Linda Allison and David Weitzman are the other two); I used her name there not to be disrespectful to the other two but because she’s well-known for other related work.

Math Practice for the Younger…

I hung on to a daily math practice book from my last classroom teaching job, and it’s proven a good keep.  It’s published by Great Source, and is set up as a quick review for a range of math concepts (place value, fractions and decimals, etc.).  It’s called Practice Counts, and comes in several different grade level versions.  (It can be tricky to find – it’s available on amazon but you have to check with the vendor to be sure you’re getting the level you want; you can also order it through a retail store.  The publisher only sells them several at a time.) Continue reading

Great math practice for pre-algebra and beyond…

The title of Key Press’ Mathercise series is as accurate as could be – every page is exercise for the math brain. The pages contain three problems each – one reasoning, one solving, one sketching. As with other Key Press materials, the book doesn’t seem to put off students by crowding too much on a page. I’d love to see even more variety in the nature of the “solve” questions, but for keeping minds in shape for math, it’s great as is. (Key usually offers sample pages with their product descriptions, but they don’t have one posted for Mathercise. I called and asked to see a sample page, and they sent me one by email.)

There are five titles in the series, starting with a pre-algebra/algebra level and finishing with a book intended for use with advanced algebra and pre-calculus students.

You can get it right from Key Press or from amazon…