Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Recommended summer reading for young students (and their parents!) aspiring to climb mathematical mountains together this summer

Does math class make your child feel like a hamster in a cage stuck in a wheel of an endlessly repetitive "spiral curriculum" with little to challenge or inspire her?   If you answered yes, then this book could provide a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Imagine if one of your daughter's classmates had an MIT professor dad who loved the fun of mathematical problem solving in his spare time.  Dream on and imagine that he volunteered to share his enthusiasm and talents as a mentor with a small group of students including your child, busting them out of the conventional curriculum hamster wheel to take them on challenging mathematical rock-climbing adventures with inspiring views of beautiful mathematical mountain vistas.

Glenn Ellison's daughters are fortunate to have just such a dad and this engaging book is the result of his very successful mathematical excursions with his daughters and their schoolmates. Some of the students with whom he has worked for a number of years have now grown into world-class problem solvers.

Written in a good-natured conversational style, Hard Math for Elementary School lays the foundation for elementary school students to develop the tools and habits of confident, capable, and curious problem solvers.   The text provides well-organized explanations and the accompanying workbook poses thoughtfully composed practice problems designed to inspire children to tackle tough problems that exceed the expectations of conventional textbooks. This book and its earlier counterpart for somewhat older students, Hard Math for Middle School, are great solutions to questions frequently posed by parents of young students looking for summer reading for their mathematically voracious students.

Sumer is icumen in,

Lhude sing cuccu!

Groweth sed and bloweth med

And springth the wude nu,

Sing cuccu!

Enjoy your summer!  Parents may find they too enjoy learning some new mathematical insights if they talk about these problems with their children.  It is great for students to discover that sometimes they can figure out answers to problems that stump grownups!  As I have discovered myself, time and time again, when working with my own children as well as other people's children in my math outreach activities, while it may be humbling for me, it is empowering and exciting for children when a flash of insight enables them to climb a mathematical mountain before I do. 

(Disclosure:  thanks to Professor Ellison for sharing a prepublication review copy of the manuscript with me.)