Thursday, September 11, 2008

For the LOVE of Math!

Not that long ago Sunburst announced that she didn't like math. She wasn't good at math, and could we please just not do any math. Ever. Again.

At the time we were reading one of the Little House books --I forget which one, but I think it was one from the Caroline series-- and we read that Caroline didn't like math. It was said plainly, like that. She didn't like math.

Now, I don't know about you, but when my kids and I read through a book we usually start to identify with the main character. I mean, that's the point of a good book--- suck you in, make you care, etc. And you care because you identify. So there we were reading along, being Caroline, and she announces that she doesn't like math. As if her racism in the Laura series wasn't bad enough. She. Doesn't. Like. Math?

Immediately I saw this as a problem. Statistics used to show that girls' interest (and self-esteem) regarding math and science took a huge dip around puberty or pre-puberty. If you ask me, anything that whacks at a girl's self-esteem needs to be nipped in the bud. Pronto. The exact wrong way to do that? Suck girls into identifying with a female character who doesn't like math.

I'll admit, math gets hard when you start having to remember multiplication facts. It's tedious work. We've been working on it for a long time now. Making progress. Losing progress. Math is a slippery slope. You use it, often, or you lose it. So we've gone round and round with it-- telling stories, playing games, singing songs with math facts, the whole shebang. Even with all that, I still wasn't sure how well it was sticking. I was still convinced she was being Caroline about it. Until today.

Today she was fascinated by the idea of these math problems:

I have to thank my sister for sending them to me. They provoked some interesting discussions about what math is and can be. The idea of a maths riddle was irresistible.

Lately, Sunburst's math skills have taken off on their own. She's five problems away from having the multiplication table memorized, and she's faster at it than I am. She seems to understand it in a way that I never did in school, and I was relatively competent at math. I could memorize. But it was a static, surface relationship. I didn't feel them. Math was never a deep and fluid thing for me. I didn't see numbers as relationships and interrelationships. But in working with Sunburst, I'm starting to get it.

Sunburst doesn't like math. She LOVES it. What's more, she confided to me that she thinks she's good at it. Good. At. Math?

You know, I think she's right.


  1. After I convinced Tink that math is like putting a puzzle together she seems to have a better attitude about it.

    Now I have a confession to make. I didnt even know there were any Caroline books! Who writes them and what is the name of it?

  2. Anonymous2:17 AM

    Hooray that Sunshine got over the math-dislike phase! I cringe when I hear that anyone, but especially girls, doesn't like math.

    Those are neat math problems. I want to solve it! :)

  3. Anonymous2:25 AM

    p.s is that a new header? It's adorable!

  4. There are seven Caroline books, the first of which is called Little House in Brookfield by Maria Wilkes. Aside from the math bit, they are pretty good.

    Some kind person has put all the Little House books in chronological order on Amazon, which I find very helpful:


    Yes, new header. I'm glad you like it. I have finally figured out the programs on this mac we brought with us, so yay! We're not going to talk about how long it took me to do that. ;-)

  5. Anonymous8:48 PM

    *grin* It took me forever to figure out how to change the header in Blogger. And then I couldn't remember how to do it a couple of months later, so when I finally figured it out, I had to send myself an e-mail as a reminder. I'm so pathetic sometimes. :>

  6. In the math problem...there was a note that said if a=3 then b does not.


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