What inspired you to write Bedtime Math?
We all know it’s good to read books to kids at night, but what about math? My husband and I both love numbers, so ever since our first child was two years old, we have folded math problems into our nightly bedtime ritual, right alongside the bedtime story. When my friends heard about this, they asked if I could write down these problems and share them. I started a daily email to see what would happen, and soon my friends wrote back that their kids had started bugging them for the nightly math problem. That’s when I knew we had stumbled upon something: how to get kids to love math as much as dessert.
Why is it important that we become more “fluent” in math? What are the benefits?
It’s no secret that America is struggling with proficiency in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math). We also know that it’s a borderline emergency to turn this around. Individuals themselves need to be numerate so they can make good decisions about their everyday lives. Sizing up deals, understanding personal loans and mortgages, voting on government budgets and public debt -- our willingness to embrace numbers will lead to better choices and a lot less heartache. Beyond that, we as a society need technologically skilled folks to keep up our quality of life. If someone is going to cure cancer, or develop new cheap sources of energy, or just build a better iPhone antenna, that person is going to have to understand some math. And the more kids enjoy math before they ever reach school, the greater the chances that some of those children will study math and excel in subjects that rely on it.
In addition to reading your book, how else can we incorporate math concepts into daily family life?
It’s a cliché, but clichés are repeated because they’re true: math is everywhere. The best place to start unearthing the math in your daily life is to choose activities your kids already love. Whether it’s animals, sports, cooking, or loud construction vehicles, they all involve numbers. The number of toes or whiskers on an animal, and how many there would be if you had 5 of those animals as pets, is math in motion. The amount of dirt that a backhoe can scoop each time, and how fast it could fill your neighbor’s swimming pool with mud, are also math problems. Better yet, you can do math about your kids with your kids: how far they can hurl a water balloon, how long they can stand on one foot like a flamingo. Kids love challenges, and just about any challenge can be quantified.
Well, this is a sticky one, isn’t it! Let’s start with calculators. Calculators can give a quick answer, but they can’t do your thinking for you. You can type in 6 x 8, but when you’re looking at a rectangle that’s 6 by 8 and you have to figure out the perimeter, you need to know whether to add or multiply on that calculator. True math fluency means knowing what to do with the numbers. I’ve tutored kids who, when I asked them on our first visit, “If eight people at your table each eat two hot dogs, how many hot dogs did they eat?” they answered, “Ten.” They knew their addition tables, but that does them little good if they don’t know what “times” means, and what operations you use in what scenarios.
This becomes all the more critical once we’re adults. If you’re offered a mortgage, you need to know how to size up the numbers to know its impact on your life. I do believe the mortgage crisis could have been less severe if more adults had been comfortable delving in to the numbers to see whether the deal worked for them. Grabbing a calculator or opening up a spreadsheet and knowing what numbers to enter will put a person far ahead. If you can run the numbers in your head, then you’re saving yourself time on top of it.
As for the fun factor, we now have a wide variety of resources for learning math through technology, ranging from the playful to the drill-and-kill. While I think some apps and websites offer fun ways to practice math, I think the human element is what makes math playful. When kids do math with their parents, as with the Bedtime Math book, they gain an emotional attachment to it. Kids love pleasure reading because their parents read to them regularly when they were little. We need to engender the same exact spirit with math and numbers.
Laura Overdeck, Author, Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late (Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, 2013)
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Thanks to Laura Overdeck for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope you’ll continue to follow the tour (dates listed below) as well as pick up a copy of Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late and read it with your children.
Follow the tour!
1. Monday, July 8 - Jinky - http://booksthattugtheheart.blogspot.com/
2. Tuesday, July 9 - Susan Heim - http://susanheim.blogspot.com
3. Wednesday, July 10 - Ken Cheung - http://daddyforever.com/
4. Thursday, July 11 - Bekah Jorgensen - www.motherhood-moment.blogspot.com
5. Friday, July 12 - Samantha Anderson - http://www.astheygrowup.com
6. Friday, July 19 - Christopher Lewis - http://dadofdivas-reviews.blogspot.com
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