Growing the Mathematical Mind through Reading

Kickstarter has a magnetism that I am powerless to resist. I’m not sure what draws me in most: the creative novelty of the projects themselves or the inspiring hustle of the imagineers turning their dreams into reality. So when Math-with-Kids enthusiast Christopher Danielson threw out the bait, I was caught, hook-line-sinker.

My track record on reading with my daughter is not great, (if I have the choice of reading or mathing with Maria, I’m going to choose math 110 times out of 100) but the colorful cover and intriguing story drew us in immediately. We faithfully read a chapter every night and were quickly drawn in wondering what happened next. The book serves as a story to introduce functions to young children, but the plot is so captivating that the mathematics runs so naturally underneath.

When I ask high school 11th and 12th graders to recall what a function is, they usually respond with some jargon about inputs and outputs or recite something relating to the vertical line test. They are versed on the process of determining if something is a function but not very proficient in why functions are important with respect to the study of algebra. But what if their understanding of functions began in elementary grades like this:

When I visit my daughter’s 1st grade classroom, the kids get most excited when I say, “this is math I do with the high school kids.” The foundational work they do with “what’s my rule” machines, data collection, and graphs are also important pillars of a strong high school math program. Reading about the use of functions in such a creative way as in Funville Adventures, helps kids make sense of them in a relatable context. The functions become as alive as the characters in this book. Each Funvillian has a unique power, and we learn why some powers cannot be undone while others can.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. As an avid non-reader, I was drawn in from the start and so was my strong-willed child (who seeks to avoid anything suggested by mom). This is a book that needs to be on your bookshelf, at school or home. I will be ordering many more of Dr. Fradkin and Dr. Bishop’s books, and I’m very grateful that we were introduced to this one as it served as a fabulous platform for some mother-daughter bonding.

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