Something for the Kids

Here are a few recommended children’s books that have math in them!

Written by Jon Scieszka (who also wrote The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales) and illustrated by Lane Smith.

Here it is on Amazon.

And another:

Written by Danny Schnitzlein and illustrated by Bill Mayer.

Here it is on Amazon and if you’re interested in seeing more of the illustrations check out Behance.


Guillevic’s Geometries

Originally titled Euclidiennes and written in French, Geometries is a collection of poetry that presents what certain geometric figures may say or think; it reminds me of the characters in Flatland. It was written in the early sixties, but recently translated into English by Ugly Duckling Presse.

Wikipedia has only a small bit of information about Eugène Guillevic’s life. His obituary in The Independent provides a bit more.

And now for some poems from Geometries:

Let’s Take a Moment to Talk About Calculators

I believe that technology is helpful and should be implemented by students and teachers (restricting it would only increase the gap between math class at school and the real world) but it should only be used for efficiency, not as a replacement for instruction or understanding. I have seen way too many students think that after pushing some specified buttons and hitting the enter/equal/whatever key that whatever the screen tells them is the answer. Sometimes students don’t understand that the calculator is merely responding to the order of the buttons pushed, not the math you think it is doing. For example, teachers must constantly remind students to include parentheses in order to communicate to the calculator exactly what you want it to do. Students don’t think about why, mathematically, they need to put parentheses, only that the teacher told them to do it to get the right answer. We need to remember that people program these calculators (they aren’t magic mind-reading machines) and there is a difference between 4×5-6 and 4x(5-6).

Another Shel Silverstein favorite:

Homework Machine

The Homework Machine, oh the Homework Machine,

Most perfect contraption that’s ever been seen.

Just put in your homework, then drop in a dime,

Snap on the switch, and in ten seconds time,

You homework comes out, quick and clean as can be.

Here it is – “nine plus four?” and the answer is “three”.


Oh me…

I guess it’s not as perfect

As I thought it would be.

If you’re interested in this debate, here are some articles going back and forth on the topic:

1. Why Johnny Can’t Add Without a Calculator (Slate – June 2012)

2. Response to “Why Johnny Can’t Add Without a Calculator” (Slate – June 2012)

3. Author of “Why Johnny Can’t Add Without a Calculator” responds to the critique (Slate – June 2012)


Shel Silverstein, author of the classic children’s poetry collections Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic (just to name a few), made his contributions to mathematical awareness with his poem “Smart.”


My dad gave me one dollar bill

‘Cause I’m his smartest son,

And I swapped it for two shiny quarters

‘Cause two is more than one!

And then I took the quarters

And traded them to Lou

For three dimes — I guess he didn’t know

That three is more than two!

Just then, along came old blind Bates

And just ’cause he can’t see

He gave me four nickels for my three dimes,

And four is more than three!

And then I took the nickels to Hiram Coombs

Down at the seed-feed store,

And the fool gave me five pennies for them,

And five is more than four!

And then I went and showed my dad,

And he got red in the cheeks

And closed his eyes and shook his head —

Too proud of me to speak!

This is such a clear representations of innumeracy, I think, and hopefully gets people thinking/talking about why all people should have a basic understanding of mathematical concepts.

And while you may think that this is just a fictional children’s poem that has nothing to do with either the real world or anyone’s actual life, here is an example of innumeracy affecting someone’s real, actual life: