5 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Math

1. Learn some math yourself. You can make learning part of your family culture by showing that everyone in your family is learning something new. This doesn’t mean lecturing your kids on the virtues of lifelong learning—it means modeling it yourself. There are lots of free online resources (try edX, or Khan Academy) for learning (or re-learning) mathematics. In addition to becoming more knowledgeable, you will also grow in compassion for their struggles. As adults it’s easy to forget how vulnerable it is to be completely clueless (and possibly not perfect at something the first time around.) Putting ourselves in the place of the student goes a long way in helping us understand our child’s experience.

2. Connect with their math teacher. Most schools have open houses or parent information nights where parents can come and meet teachers. Show up to these events and it will make a difference to your child and their teacher. As a teacher, meeting a parent signals to me that my student has a supportive home environment, and it’s helpful to get a fuller picture of their lives outside of the classroom. Establishing a relationship also makes it easier to reach out if there are questions or concerns later in the year.

3. Make sure they have clean, quiet place to work with the supplies they need. Many of the students who struggle in my classes are highly distractable, and environmental cues are helpful for signaling that it’s time to focus and get to work. Most teachers provide a list of supplies at the beginning of the year. It’s a good bet that for math class they will need pencils, erasers, paper, and a ruler. Other possibilities include a scientific calculator, and graph paper. Be sure to check in every couple of months to see if they need refills.

4. Show them real math at work in everyday life. To stay motivated, your child will need come up with their own reasons why it’s important to study math (and these are likely to change over the years.) We work on this some in the classroom, but it’s extra effective if it also comes from home. Statistics in news articles, measurement in building and cooking, probability in decision-making are just a few of the different kinds of mathematics in the world around us. Practice looking and you’ll see more and more.

5. Offer encouragement to build perseverance. Everybody struggles in math at some point in their lives. Yet we seem to have this idea that, “Either I’m a math person or I’m not.” The reality is that there are a lot of different kinds of mathematics, and a lot of ways to be good at math. Struggling with math one day does not mean that you won’t find satisfaction or even joy in it later. Seeing mistakes as an opportunity for growth is a mindset that will help your child in math class and beyond.

Math Inspires Art Inspires Math . . .

First images of my latest project . .

My Spring Creativity Has Sparked!

After nearly a year of creative hiatus, I am excited to share the first images of my new project.

Since last August I have been focusing on improving my craft as a middle and high school Algebra teacher. I am inspired by my students to create a new series of prints weaving together math, art, and history.

The images above are illustrations of the Greek method for approximating the circumference of a circle by inscribing a series of polygons with ever increasing number of sides. The more sides a polygon has, the closer its perimeter is to the circumference of the circle. Ancient Greek mathematicians worked on calculating perimeters of polygons with more and more sides in an attempt to arrive at a definitive whole number ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter (or pi.)

The top image above is a circumscribed and an inscribed polygon (representing upper and lower bounds for calculating pi.) The lower image is an inscribed triangle and hexagon (a nod to Eudoxus’ “method of exhaustion.”)

These two mini prints are just me getting my feet wet–I’m also working on a larger print that I’ll share more about later . . .

New Cards for Winter 2018

I made this new print based on an embroidery design I’m sewing into felt. Maybe when my new fabric inks arrive I’ll print on fabric and embroider the prints onto a bag or something. I love having a handwork project going to work on by my wood stove. When my kids were smaller, I read a story about an old woman on a journey with a young child who advised the importance of handwork to quiet the mind so that the heart can open. I love thinking about that as I continue with my work.

Stay warm this Winter writing sweet somethings to your loved ones. Check out all my cards on my gallery page.

The Third Graders made it look easy . . .

It’s going to be amazing when it’s done, I swear!

Here are my first attempts at chain stitching letters. I keep telling myself that it will look better from a distance. And I’m hoping it will get better the more I practice. The sharp corners are tough to negotiate–maybe I’ll try to make it larger, or try a different stitch or a smaller thread.

Great ideas in small packages

spools of floss
Re-purposed thread spools now hold embroidery floss!

My colleague June Albright at the Upper Valley Waldorf School just showed me how to take tangled snarls of embroidery floss and wrap them around empty thread spools for easy storage. So much nicer than the mess they were before, and more beautiful!

Other exciting news this week: I finished my Sami inspired reindeer bag!

finished reindeer bag
A beautiful new handwork bag.

Which means I am allowed to start my next project involving mini stamps. Pictured below are the underworld, a tree, a boat, a fishing net, and a border.

mini blocks
Mini blocks awaiting their destiny in a larger project . . . to be continued!

Math is Art

purple star

I made this amazing purple star at my math workshop last weekend at The Nature Institute in Ghent, NY. I’m pleased with the coloring (I’m not always that patient!) and I’m pleased with the math: I learned all kinds of cool things you can do with pentagons, pentagrams, and the Golden Ratio. I love finding deep problems that you can teach to people at a variety of levels–6th grade through Calculus. I’m looking forward to taking another class there sometime soon.

Inspired by Finland

Reindeer and sun symbols combined in felt on what will become a craft bag.

I’m getting ready for my summer trip to Iceland and Finland by immersing myself in some beautiful images. This reindeer is from a book called Scandinavian Folk Patterns, and the sun framing it I found online researching Sami drum symbols. Felt is one of my favorite fabrics to sew because you don’t need to hem it and it makes big bold lines and shapes similar to the ones I like to use in my block prints.