Inspired by Calculus: Online course for parents, teachers, and their children ages 5-12

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  • What: An intensive online workshop on calculus for young children
  • Why: Learn how to help your children play with rich and beautiful math.
  • Who: 25 parents, teachers, math circle leaders, and their children, with Kalid Azad and Shelley Nash as organizers
  • When: Live meetings March 2, 3, and 30 at 8:00 – 9:30 PM EST (New York)
  • Where: Online video-talk software Zoom (similar to Skype)
  • Price: Registration is $40. Work-trade stipends are available upon request.
  • Supplies: Paper, markers, scissors, glue, tape, building blocks

Missed this course? Check out our available courses at


Inspired By Calculus 2016

We are running a three-week online workshop for 25 parents, math circle leaders, and teachers with their children ages 5 to 12.The goals of Inspired by Calculus are to help adults develop their own math intuition, to see the joy and beauty of math (especially Calculus), and to help adults develop the confidence to try out calculus activities with their own circle, family, or class. Your children are welcome to be in the class. They may come and go as they please! We enjoy seeing their math, too!

Let’s Explore!

Calculus is usually presented as a tool for engineers and physicists. It misses the bigger picture: Calculus is a point of view that helps you see everyday objects, from a humble banana to a flipbook, in a new light. Imagine having “X-Ray” vision, where you can look at any shape and see how it was put together. Or, practice your “Time-lapse” vision and learn to predict how shapes will change in the future, like peeking ahead in a flipbook. These analogies provide more insight than years of dry textbooks, and can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Join us to play and explore a new point of view!

Here’s how it works:

Adults meet twice in a webinar format at the beginning of the workshop (Mar 2, 3rd). During the first workshop, our goals are to become familiar with Natural Math methods and activities and to explore in the context of Calculus. You’ll be introduced to Math Sparks and you’ll try them out live! You can have your children try them out too! (They are welcome to come and go in the class; just note that we mostly talk to the adults.)

Between the first and second workshop, as you are able, try out a math activity with your group of children or students. There is no pressure, but we want you to bring your experience back to the second workshop. Bring the successes, the challenges, the struggles, whatever happens we want to know!

The goal of our second workshop is to give you the support, feedback and confidence you need to try out even more math sparks on your own. We will discuss your experiences and share feedback and ideas with one another.

After the initial two workshops, you get to explore with your family, students, or math circle! For three weeks try to dive into our support materials and discuss your experiences in an online forum. You can try as much or as little as you like. Kalid and Shelley will be actively answering questions in the forum and you are encouraged to share your experiences and help others, too!

The last workshop (Mar 30th), we’ll wrap up the experiences. This workshop lasts between 30-45 minutes. Our goal is to be sure you have gained confidence and abilities to play with math in your own situation. This is your chance to get ideas, help, further connections, resources–whatever you need. Come ask! The support materials and forum will always be available to you even after the close of the live workshop session.

Want to make a difference for your children and see mathematics in a new light? Join this new Natural Math adventure!

Here is a sample of our Math Sparks. We’ll have Sparks like that to go with every activity. The goal is to start thinking about ideas – to spark curiosity. Click to see the full-size PDF and ponder the questions in it.



Kalid Azad is an extremely curious person who loves sharing insights with others. While studying Computer Science at Princeton University Kalid started a site to explain concepts as he would have liked to learn them. BetterExplained is a continuation of that idea. The book Math, Better Explained is a well-received Amazon bestseller.

Shelley Nash is the homeschooling mom of seven amazing and challenging kids ages 13 to 1. For over 20 years, she has been driven by an insatiable desire to understand learning, education, education’s role in our society and personal development, and the role of technology in learning. She is passionate about letting children own their education and learning, and about discovering the elements that inspire learning in all of us.

Natural Math Principles

Bridges is one of the seven Natural Math main principles, and the focus of this class. Bridges connect and unite. In the class, you will learn to link math ideas to one another, math to other human endeavors, and people to math-rich communities. Connections help us to make sense of math, and to use math to make sense of life.

A video message from Maria Droujkova: 5 year olds can learn calculus

This is a presentation the founder of Natural Math gave at a SparkCON festival, building on 5 Year Olds Can Learn Calculus article in The Atlantic. It’s a short and fast-paced intro to what Natural Math is all about, and to calculus with young children.

A video message from Kalid Azad: calculus in 1 minute

Calculus is a special way of understanding the world. In this video, I give a 1-minute intuitive overview of what calculus is all about.

A letter from Shelley Nash

Is math a struggle at your house? Do you want to do it differently? Do you want it to be fun? Profound? Joyful? Do you want to know why this subject is so important beyond balancing your checkbook?

After reading Mathematicians Lament about how we kill the joy in math, I’ve wanted to teach math differently and use more discovery and interaction. But since I didn’t learn math this way, it has been really challenging to figure out how to do it this way. I have felt silly, or like I’m groping around in the dark. I’ve realized that I have never really “done Math” in the sense a mathematician uses the word, and reading about how to “do math” isn’t enough. So I never did much differently. I bought lots of books and read about doing different, but I still really didn’t know how it should “look!” Then I found mentors at Natural Math.

When you first start this mathematical journey, it can feel like embarking to a foreign land. A mentor helps you see the way, but a group of peers encourages you to keep going and to gain confidence in your abilities. Sharing with others will comfort you that your struggles and feelings are a normal part of the process. With others you can find more diverse ways of thinking about math and you can share ideas with others about how this new way of doing math is looking in your home. When you are connected to other families or groups you can make more lasting changes to your learning practices.

What do you get from Inspired by Calculus?

  • A highly interactive experience where you make models, talk, and collaborate with other parents and teachers.
  • Leading your children or students on playful math adventures.
  • The first meeting in a math circle format (you as a student!) to see how to run these activities, and to get inspired.
  • A day to try activities with children and friends
  • The second meeting to answer your questions, overview other activities, and prepare to do them with children.
  • Three weeks of mentoring and peer discussions on the forums.
  • The third meeting to recap, ask more questions, and stay inspired by calculus!
  • A dozen reference cards (math sparks) to help you try out the activities with your children.
  • Access to the Natural Math online forum to ask questions and share resources, even after the class is over.
  • Most importantly, you’ll get the confidence in your own ability to do math differently in your family!

Questions? Email or ask in comments to this page.

  • Connection and devices: you will need fast internet to watch and listen. It’s better to have a microphone and a webcam so you can show and tell as well, but you can also use text chat. We recommend larger screens rather than phones.
  • Software: Zoom is a tool for talking, like Skype or Google Hangouts. Please download and try it, here: The same page has the link to a tech support center, in case you need it.
  • Recording: The meetings will be available as YouTube videos.
23 comments on “Inspired by Calculus: Online course for parents, teachers, and their children ages 5-12
  1. Sunshine says:


    I would like to attend the online course, but I can’t make the live sessions. Will the course be recorded for purchase later? Will there be a book on 5 year olds can learn calculus?


    • MariaD says:

      Hello Sunshine!

      (Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Love your username!)

      We will record the sessions, and will try to make them available. The good news is we’ll run the course again, and try to make it more open too. And yes, we ARE working on that young calculus book. Of course we are! It’s such a lovely topic. Kalid Azad and Yelena McManaman are my co-authors.

  2. Sunshine says:

    Thanks for your quick reply. This sounds great!

    Do you know when the book will be available?

  3. Sunshine says:

    Thank you. Looking forward to it!

  4. Anne says:

    Wondering if this will be difficult for me as the mom…. I have always struggled with math. Took college math 101 three times to finally pull up from failing to a C-. I have obvious holes in math skills, and some concepts just can’t be grasped or retained. My daughter’s math skills passed me by when she hit about 4th or 5th grade. And my 8 year old can wrap his brain around numbers like I can’t. I’m learning by being just a step ahead of him…sometimes. I am fascinated with learning math this way but worry I can’t fill the role of mentor for my kids in math. Any advice or insight involving this class? My 1st thought; being able to access archives is invaluable in my situation so I can review and hopefully grasp and retain…. Thanks and we just might take the course.

    • MariaD says:


      The main goal of the course is to introduce parents and teachers who feel like you do to different ways of looking at mathematics.

      You are already thinking of one very helpful strategy: take things at your pace, look at archives for as little or as long as you need, choose time on your own terms.

      And another good idea from your note: learn math together with your child, explore it yourself and look just a bit ahead – but then explore again as a pair.

      There are more ideas like that that help to making math your own.

      Let’s not worry about holes, but seek and use our strengths – all the things in life that we like, love, and do well.

      Let’s try and do math without numbers. Most mathematics does not have numbers in it!

      We chose calculus because most grown-ups don’t have an experience of doing calculus as children. That helps with a fresh start.

      I hope you try this course or other Natural Math experiences, and I hope they help you. Write any time with questions, or let us talk in voice.

      • Jennifer says:

        I find it fascinating that you state that most of mathematics “does not have numbers in it”. Speaking as a Canadian educator, I know that our math curriculum addresses more than just numbers, but what I would hope to get out of a course like this is a clear definition of what mathematics is as I feel that most people believe that is has everything to do with numbers and not much beyond that. I certainly see this perspective in my own family as my husband made the remark to my 6-year-old son the other day “You’re finally doing math!” when he brought home a page of addition questions. He was successful in mathematics courses throughout his years as a student, but I struggled through math courses. I would definitely like to explore the ways that educators can play a role in changing the attitude towards mathematics!

        • MariaD says:

          Jennifer, so glad you are entering the course with a personal quest in mind – to find what mathematics is! I am sure you have seen some short answers, like “Mathematics is patterns” – but they are not very… actionable. So, math is patterns, you may say, now what do I do with my son?

          In the course, we will discuss the seven principles of Natural Math and what to do with them. For example, “TOTAL YES” says that math is everywhere, so you can ACCEPT anything your child does as mathematical, then CONNECT it to other people’s mathematical ideas.

          Meanwhile, it may be interesting (if overwhelming) to look at the academic classification of mathematical subjects. There are about sixty of them, and most have very little to do with numbers:

      • Anne says:

        Thank you for your encouragement. I actually discussed the class with Shelley Nash as well on another online forum/discussion! We’ll give the class a whirl, despite our busy summer.

  5. Hi Maria,
    I plan to open a experiential learning elementary school and I Know that parents are going to ask about how are children specifically the Kindergarden’s are going to aquire basic math skills. I like your way of thinking as it is consistent with real life relevance. I see that your course is full. When will you be offering the calculus course again for K-5?

    • MariaD says:

      Hi Lydia,

      We are likely to run it again in the early Fall. If you need some materials or know-how for your school earlier than that, we can do various things, such as a teleconference with you and the parents. Email so we can talk.

  6. Aparna says:

    Hi! I’m a mother to a 7 ur old who has suddenly lost the spark for math. I remember just two years ago, she would never tire of doing math problems( simple addition stuff appropriate for her age) but she enjoyed doing it. Now, the moment I mention math, I first hear a groan…it’s almost like a reluctance to think/apply herself … I am assuming that in the last couple of years she has developed a great love for reading and that comes very naturally to her. In comparison, math obviously demands more thinking from her which she is lazy to do. Looking back I think that I even I was like her growing up. I couldn’t change that about myself then but want to change it for her, and hope that in the process I can also overcome my own demons. Want to make math fun for her again but dunno where to start. Plz advice.

    • MariaD says:

      I would suggest starting with yourself. Are you offering your 7 year old mathematics YOU like? If not, she senses it, and things turn sour.

      Find some sweet parts of mathematics – sweet to YOU. It may be a funny cartoon, and beautiful picture, a puzzle, a game… Find something, anything you like. Only after you like it, share it with your child.

      Does it make sense?

  7. Zoe says:

    Loving this discussion and had fun with the spark! That said- when is the course starting? Have I missed the start?


    • MariaD says:

      Zoe, you have not missed anything! The course is starting Monday July 6 with some forum tasks, and the first live meeting is on July 7. We’ll send details on Sunday.

  8. Firdos Ali says:

    What are the session times and days of the week for this course?

    • MariaD says:

      Hi Firdos,

      The February 2016 session has live meetings February 5, 6, and 27 at noon EST (New York), and last an hour and a half. February 5 is this Friday and February 6 and 27 are Saturdays.

  9. Surabhi says:


    I want to sign up but am concerned that I may not make it to the first workshop due to other commitments…will a recording be available for later viewing?


  10. Debbie MICHELS says:

    Is there a wait list? I just got back from work and wanted to sign up–just got paid!

    • MariaD says:

      Debbie – thanks for your interest. Refresh the page and you will see the wait list gadget. We will also try to put up the sign-up for future courses ahead of time.

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