December 2011

How Much Math Do You need?

When I was in high school, I often pondered exactly how much math would I need in my life. I went through all the algebras, trigonometry and probability and statistics and couldn't figure out how it would end up helping balance my checkbook.

When I went to college to study physics, I took years of calculus, differential equations and even mathematical modeling. The last class was supposed to help use this advanced math for real world situations.

I eventually graduated and did not go into physics. I went into writing and journalism and the bulk of the math I learned, I never use. The funny thing is that even the people I talk to on a regular basis who went into science and engineering hardly use the math they learned.

Math Wise! Over 100 Hands-On Activities that Promote Real Math Understanding

Children have different ways of learning, but for many, especially in grade school and junior high, hands-on techniques leave the strongest impressions and make lessons more memorable. When looking for resources to teach math, it's important to find different ways of presenting the same subject matter, especially in the earlier years.

Mathematics is challenging, because even some of the most basic concepts can seem so complex and abstract. Giving children activities that reinforce lessons with hands-on application, gives another dimension to math concepts, from addition and subtraction to geometry. Sometimes seeing something in a book or reading an explanation just isn't enough.

Math Wise! Over 100 Hands-On Activities that Promote Real Math Understanding is a treasury of math-related activities for teachers to use in their classrooms. The book is set up to be as user-friendly as possible, with every activity lesson listed in the table of contents and marked to show what grade levels they are appropriate for as well as the style (concrete/manipulative, pictorial/visual/ and abstract) and format that works best (group, cooperative or independent).

Math and Physics

I will admit that when I chose to study physics in college, it was because of Star Trek. Don't laugh, you'd be surprised how many people say this. I knew that I would require an extensive amount of math for the degree, and I was prepared.

When you major in physics, you are basically double majoring in math as well. Math is more an integral (no puns please) part of physics than any other science. The most basic aspects of physics require nothing more than algebra and geometry.

When you want to find the force on a object, it's simply force equals mass times acceleration. You learn a lot of equations during your first year and use algebra to rearrange the equations, so you can find the appropriate variable.

Arithmatic For Parents

Learning math comes easily to some children and harder to others. When your child picks up on math concepts quickly and with little effort, it makes homework time a lot simpler. You may have to help explain the assignment instructions from time to time, but it’s not an everyday struggle. If your child is regularly challenged by basic mathematical concepts, homework time can be frustrating—for both of you.

26 Letters and 99 Cents

"The book is really two in one."

We head to the library at least once a week, though sometimes we go as many as three times, depending upon what’s happening at the library. And every month, without fail, my daughter brings home a copy of 26 Letters and 99 Cents to read. You would think I would have purchased it by now; I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. But the book is a fantastic introduction to both numbers and letters, with bright, full-color photos that are huge enough to trace with your hands. Tana Hoban’s book is the perfect gift for the little mathematician or beginning reader on your list this holiday season.

The Complete Book of Fun Maths: 250 Confidence-Boosting Tricks, Tests and Puzzle

Math and puzzles go hand in hand. Those of us who love to play with numbers enjoy unwinding with some challenging math puzzles that test our noggins and keep us sharp. There’s just a unique satisfaction that comes with solving a tricky problem that’s designed to get you thinking.

That’s why I love The Complete Book of Fun Maths: 250 Confidence-Boosting Tricks, Tests and Puzzles by Philip Carter. It’s full of tests and puzzles that challenge you with different levels of lateral thinking problems, geometric puzzles, fun number tricks and logic puzzles.

What sets this book apart from many other math activity books is the variety of problems and tests that are provided. I have a tendency to tire of books that have a hundred versions of the same thing over and over again. I like to be challenged in different ways. The Complete Book of Fun Maths totally delivers.