Fri 2 Sep 2011
For me, my go-to math resource is always my sister, Dr. Pamela Wells, shown here on the left. She regularly responds to frantic math questions related to my children’s homework or something I have to do for work.
One of my favorite memories is of a time I called her in a panic and described what I needed to figure out. She listened patiently and then said, “Oh, you want a weighted rolling average.”
Which, of course, is exactly what I wanted. I just didn’t know it.
Even if Pam weren’t my sister, she’d still be someone worth consulting about math.
She’s an associate professor of mathematics education at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich., where she trains future elementary and middle school teachers. She also works a lot with practicing elementary and middle school teachers and their students. She has published articles in a variety of journals, including Primus, Teaching Children Mathematics and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Yearbook.
Pam says one of her favorite things to do is “design activities to increase students’ algebraic thinking,” and I’m glad that’s so because I never seem to be able to find the time.
Besides being a math expert, Pam is a fine cook, so she was the obvious choice to review a new children’s book about math and food, Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds by Ann McCallum (Charlesbridge, 2011).
As you’ll see, she was more than up for the challenge. Take it away, Pam!
My goal in the courses I teach is to broaden my students’ view of mathematics so that they can see the beauty, creativity and usefulness of mathematics in their everyday lives. When they go out to teach elementary school children, I want them to pass along a sense of wonder that comes from searching for patterns and a seeing how many things that happen in life are related to mathematics.
After reading this book, I plan to use it with my students as an engaging way to combine math and cooking.
The book introduces children and their families to a variety of interesting mathematics through family-friendly recipes. For example, children can make tangram cookies and then play with their food before eating it! Tangrams (a seven-piece geometric puzzle based on an ancient Chinese puzzle) are quite addicting, so it is a good thing that the book provides a lot of ideas for puzzles to create with your cookie tangrams.
In another recipe, children gain experiences with patterns by creating Fibonacci snack sticks. Fibonacci, a famous Italian mathematician who lived in the 1700s, is known for a pattern of numbers he created that can be continued forever. I’m not going to tell you more about the pattern here, since that would spoil your enjoyment of the book. I will say, however, that you need to look carefully at the illustrations in the book to see what is going on with all the rabbits!
For each recipe, the author also provides a Math Appeteaser to continue families’ mathematical explorations.
So, pull out your apron, put on your thinking cap, and get ready to whip up some yummy snacks and whet your mathematical appetite at the same time.
If you’d like to learn even more about some of the mathematics introduced in Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds, check out the books listed below. They are family friendly, and many have activities for families to do together.
• Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’agnese (Henry Holt & Co., 2010).
• Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson (Gibbs Smith, 2002).
To go along with Fraction Chips:
• The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Fractions Book by Jerry Palotta (Scholastic, 1999)
To go along with Tangram Cookies:
• Three Pigs, One Wolf, and Seven Magic Shapes by Grace Maccarone (Scholastic Press, 1997).
• Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert (Crown Publishers, 1990).
• A Cloak for the Dreamer by Aileen Friedman (Scholastic Press, 1994).
To go along with Pizza Pi:
• Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander (Charlesbridge, 1999).
To go along with Probability Trail Mix:
• It’s Probably Penny by Loreen Leedy (Henry Holt & Co., 2007).
Happy reading! And, happy eating!
And if you’d like to learn more about the many math books Ann McCallum has written, visit her website.
Thanks, Pam! If you ever have a comma crisis and need urgent advice, I’m your woman.