Saturday, June 21, 2014

Playing With Math: More reviews coming in...

Bernie, Fawn, Ben, Chris, John, Shireen, and Laura (geekmom extraordinaire) have all written lovely posts about the book. Here's one more. Debbie McDuffee is one of the 5,000-plus members of Living Math Forum. She wrote this to share there, and with a number of other homeshool groups. I asked if I could share it here.

Hi Everyone,

I want to thank Sue for making her manuscript of Playing with Math available, and I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book. As someone who has my Master's in education, I've read my share of education books, both assigned and because I am completely passionate about the subject. I can say without hesitation that this book is truly special. Sue, you've really got something great here!

What a lovely, comfortable book, a relaxing conversation between people from all math backgrounds, that you can read and let sink in. Or, you can follow the sparks it ignites. Or, you can wonder, research and continue to spark. Or you can compile what works for you and your kids from all of the anecdotes in the book and reinvigorate or even, dare I say, redefine, math in your household or classroom. This book has so many purposes and I truly wanted to start reading it again as soon as I was finished (and I will ... many times!). And it's the kind of book you will get more from every time you read it.

Sue's writing style sets a comfortable dialogue between the author and the reader right away. It's not preachy, judgy or really particularly instructive. Instead, it's a party of anecdotes that got this reader excited about not just doing math with kids, but playing with math myself, just for the fun of it. They say that the best education is when you focus on yourself instead of your child, so you can be the example, and this book inspires me to do just that.

Playing with Math also helped me understand math circles like no other. I've looked at various writings on math circles and none have spoken to me the way Playing with Math has. The balance of accessibility without talking down just works for me. It's not trying to be didactic, but the mix of many experiences allows me to construct my own ideas of what math circles can mean in my own life with kids.

Oh, and I literally had web searches open as I was reading this, searching for things like "Waldorf coloring math facts" and "math olympiad problems" so as I read, I amassed a bunch of resources to get started at the same time. The Moscow Puzzles book is available on Amazon for $3.99 prime!

The other thing that strikes me is that the different examples within a topic, while all demonstrating the main theme of "playing with math," have varied enough approaches that there really is something for everyone to glean. For example, in the math circles section, two of them definitely resonated more for me than the others, even though there was valuable information in all of them, and I'm sure I will pick and choose different elements from all of them that work for me. The Homeschooling section's wonderful blend of anecdotes, advice and examples did the same.

I love that there are example problems and math games and activities sprinkled throughout the book. What a perfect idea, since everything about the book is so inspirational ... you can start learning right away! 

The "Passionate Teachers" section literally made me respect teachers more. I love knowing that there are still teachers willing to step out of the box and do what is right for the kids. Reading this section reinforces that creativity is alive and well in the classrooms ... I hope more and more teachers can be inspired by this book.

As if all of this wasn't enough, the "Resources" and "Conclusion" sections are filled with more places to find ideas, both online and in books, tips for mentoring, how to support girls, and so much more. This books is truly one of the most well-rounded I have read. While it still sticks to the theme and doesn't try to be everything mathematics, it thoroughly explores "playing with math" and what it can mean to the reader on many different levels.

It is evident how much work and passion went into the making of this book. What an amazing collaboration! Thanks again Sue, and everyone who contributed.

Debbie McDuffee
M.Ed. and Founder of LACI Homeschoolers' Association

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