Sunday, October 15, 2006

Passion (even about Math)

If you teach what you are passionate about, your passion is transferred to your students or audience. This is why a teacher who doesn't enjoy reading should not teach reading, English, literature, or even writing. The best teachers lead by example and with passion.

As an example, I had a Statistics professor at Sam Houston State University who literally inspired me with his passion. I could not imagine a course with more potential to bore a person to tears than a Statistics class. But this man was so passionate about it that you couldn't help but love the course.

It was his passion for statistics that led me to love probability and to actually learn to love mathematics. As a child I despised math. But now, in large part because of this amazing teacher, I not only understand it better, but actually enjoy it to the point that I have several books on mathematics that I have purchased and read for pleasure.

Can you actually read for pleasure a book on math? You bet! Here are a few children's books that make math concepts fun:

• Almost anything by Greg Tang (Grapes of Math, Math Appeal, Math Fables, etc.)
• The Sir Cumference series by Cindy Neuschwanderander
Cool Math by Christy Maganzini (a VERY cool book!)

My favorite series is the Math Start series, divided by difficulty levels. The stories are realistic, compelling, and meaningful to children including things like setting up a lemonade stand, running races, and riding on elevators. Suddenly abstract concepts like number lines, division, and fractions become something that children can easily grasp and make sense of.

If you are interested in fun math reading geared for an older child or adult, you might want to try these:

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott (a fable that opens the mind to pondering multiple dimensions, but makes that mental exercise much less exhausting).
Why do Buses Come in Threes? by Rob Eastaway (Mathematically explains many of the everyday questions we have like "Why does the grocery line I'm in always move the slowest?" And yes, there is a mathematical answer. You aren't just imagining it--your line IS the slowest!)
Mathenauts edited by Rudy Rucker. This collection of short stories by the likes of Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, and Frederik Pohl provide fictional stories that bring to life in a very fun and stimulating way, some of the puzzles of math. And you don't have to be a mathematician or do any number crunching to enjoy these fun stories.

No comments: