Learn Math the Winnie Cooper Way

I can't resist the snarky title, but this is a serious topic. Tara Smith has a review of a math book by Danica McKellar, titled Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail. It's aimed at getting middle-school girls to have more positive feelings about math in general.

I am not now nor have I ever been in the target audience for this book, so I won't attempt to evaluate it. However, I think everybody this side of "Uncle Al" agrees that finding better ways to teach math to middle-school girls is a Good Thing, so I wanted to post a pointer to Tara's review for those who don't already read her blog.

She also has a teasing sentence hinting at a forthcoming interview with McKellar (which may already be up by the time this posts), so check back for that, if brainy celebrities are your thing...

(UPDATE: here's the interview.)

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Tara at Aetiology has a review of Danica McKellar's new book Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind Or Breaking A Nail. She also snagged an interview with McKellar which you can find here. She asks McKellar about her motivations for writing the book and…
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When I had the opportunity to review Danica McKellar's new book Math Doesn't Suck, I was excited on two levels. First and foremost, it's aimed at getting girls interested in math. I've always been flummoxed as to why the subject is such a male dominated field and curious to find out how Danica…

Successfuly teaching math, calculus to the able by end of high school, is important. Instruction aimed at folks with one each blue and brown eye is stupid (compassionate!). The far right end of the bell curve is a womb birthing the future. You don't care who hosts it. Servicing rectums - a mere inch away - won't get you quality (though it will obtain abundant quantity and managerial performance bonuses therefrom).

Head Start is a lethal waste of $6.786 billion in 2007. Early Start has a $billion embrace of its own for Head Start discards. If only NSF's 2007 $6.02 billion could be confiscated to Save Our Children! Let's call it Title Nein. (Only a racist pig would spew hate language of NSF with $12.8 billion. What would that accomplish?)

Uncle Al overlooks the detail that you cannot teach advanced math in high school to a bright student who has been mathematically abused in middle school or never taught long division or fractions in elementary school. (There are some entire curricula based on doing division by guessing, for example. Look up "TERC" or "Everyday Math". Now imagine teaching synthetic division to someone who has never seen long division.)

It is quite common to discover that a student fighting various forms of math anxiety in college, quite often female, had experiences in a math class in middle school that, IMO, border on criminal. Can you imagine having four teachers in 2 months, at least one of whom was fired? (If you know how rarely a teacher gets fired, that alone says a lot.) Where the "good" one made sure the kids knew who was doing poorly so they could pick on him or her? These are not students on the wrong end of the bell curve, by the way, but you can imagine what happens to the ones who are.

No single book can solve those kinds of problems, but any book that reaches out to this age group, as this one clearly does, can only be a major help.

By CCPhysicist (not verified) on 25 Jul 2007 #permalink