Avoid Hard Work is our newest book. It gives a playful view on ten powerful problem-solving techniques, originally published by the Mathematical Association of America for advanced high school students – and now, made accessible for children ages 3 (yes! three!) and up. Go to the book page to try activities from the sample pages, watch James Tanton’s pirate island story, and read about our worry-dreams.
Thank you so much to everybody who contributed! We will always remember you by name – and it will be in the book.
Download and try sample activities for your children, Inspired by Calculus for ages 5-9 and Camp Logic for ages 9-14. If you like what you see, sign up for a week of daily mathematical joy! Starting June 27 and August 8.
Dr. Maria Droujkova did a question and answer live event called Ask Me Anything on Reddit. There are 850+ comments there – what a friendly and interested discussion it had been! Here are a couple of more upvoted exchanges.
Q: Why do so many children (and adults) hate advanced math? Is it how it’s taught, or what is taught?
A: It’s a deep question, and I’d like to warn that the answer is somewhat disturbing in its implications. Yes, some of it is WHAT is taught – the number crunching without patterns, the primitive yet tedious topics instead of beautiful adventures of the mind, medieval content not linked to current trends. The “what” part is relatively easy to address: there are wonderful materials out there! Innovative books, cool computer simulations, hands-on construction sets, etc.
And a part of the problem HOW math is taught: we do need to mind what we know about human learning, such as spaced repetition for memory, the power of multiple examples that come from your peer group, the motivation of making mathematics your own.
Yet the most difficult part that tends to stay off-screen is WHY math is taught. Advanced math is taught as a gatekeeper, as a means not to starve. It trickles all the way down – I hear parents of children as young as five or six say that if they don’t push math now, the child will fail forever. To quote a presentation: “Why do we need to know multiplication? One reason is that multiplication is on many tests kids take. The story goes like this: if kids don’t know multiplication facts, they will fail tests, which means they won’t get into college, which means no career, which means epic fail of the whole life. For want of a nail, the kingdom is lost.”
So people hate math because they learn it out of fear. How can we help kids learn math for meaningful, joyful, loving reasons? That’s what it’s all about…
Q: Ok, I get how a 5 year old could probably understand limits but please explain to me how the average 5 year old can understand differentiation and integration?
A: Imagine an interesting shape, like the Millennium Falcon. How much space does it occupy? Or maybe, how much plastic would you need to 3D print it? Now, imagine building that spaceship out of LEGO blocks. You can then count the blocks to estimate the volume. This, in a nutshell, is integration: building a shape out of easy, simple little shapes.
See you online!
Dr. Maria Droujkova and the Natural Math crew
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Activities, courses, books, and games by and for the Natural Math community.