Every Child Can Do Math: Deceptively Simple Activities for Math Thinking
I am a reading teacher. There, I said it. You may be wondering what I am doing reviewing a book about teaching math. Our school implemented an advisory program that offers extra time to work with RTI groups on reading and mathematics. That meant I needed to learn some new “tricks” when working with students in small groups on math. Every Child Can Do Math: Deceptively simple activities to develop mathematical thinking by Yeap Ben Har and Lorraine Walker came to my rescue.
The premise of the book is this: “(T)o prepare our students to thrive in a globally connected world, we need to help them become mathematical thinkers.” This makes perfect sense to me. The problem is how to do it. The book develops mathematical thinking and reasoning through problems that often have five different “right” ways to solve the problem. The key component is that students need to explain and defend their approaches. This is the essential part of learning.
What’s in the book
The book is divided into three sections: number sense, visualization, and patterns and relationships. Each section contains activities with an introduction, vocabulary (the reading teacher loves when this is included in a math content lesson!) and the “rules of the road” which summarize the instructions that will be given to students.
Each activity is divided into two parts: a “guided conversation,” which describes how to present the puzzles; and “behind the math,” which explains the thinking and reasoning behind various approaches. Each activity contains tips on presenting the lesson with visuals and illustrations. One helpful chart connects the activities with the Common Core Standards for easy reference.
The activities are fun and engaging. Examples in the book include “triangle number puzzle” and “fractions with pattern blocks.” The best part of the book is that everything is included that you will need to begin the lesson. This is a goldmine! You will find number cards, pattern blocks and tangrams along with the worksheets. No need to search for materials when they are included. The materials are clearly written and easy to cut apart.
Every Child Can Do Math is the perfect resource to engage students while challenging them to think. The activities are matched to the Common Core and deepen students’ understanding of mathematical concepts while they have fun at the same time. I plan to hide this one away.
Sandy Wisneski is a lead teacher at Catalyst Charter Middle School, which opened in the fall of 2013. She is the district Webmaster, tech mentor, and yearbook advisor as well as new teacher mentor. Over the past 37 years she has become certified as a Flat Classroom Teacher and obtained her masters in reading. She enjoys challenging students to “take ownership” for their learning and to be effective digital citizens in the world.