Today, TeachingBooks.net welcomes author Sean Connolly as he stops by on his blog tour to discuss his new book The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math (Workman, 2012).
OK—pencils and papers ready? Two trains leave Chicago, bound for New York. The first travels at 60 mph, making five stops of fifteen minutes each. The second train leaves ninety minutes later …
Or how about—water is running into a bathtub at a rate of one gallon a minute but the plug is out and the tub is draining out at a rate of six pints every …
If you’re about my vintage, you’ll remember these word problems. The bored math wizards in my sixth-grade class would have the answer in seconds, while the rest battled the tedium to work out the solution. Or maybe they just gave up.
Word problems like these were the unlikely inspiration for The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math. Fast-forward from the sixth grade and I was not only the father of school-age children, but also the author of books aimed at younger readers. As I became acquainted with this Educational Framework and those Curriculum Guidelines, I had a Eureka moment: Those word problems were trying to get kids to fuse literacy and numeracy skills!
Bridging that perceived math/reading divide was clever. But the problem with those problems was that they were pretty darned boring. Hmmm. What would happen if they were shaken up, updated, and given a real edge?
I knew that turning math workouts into life-or-death challenges was the way to engage young readers. Plus I had an ideal sounding board in the form of my boy-girl twins, one of whom loves math and the other who is the bookworm (I won’t say which is which).
I had a lot of fun from there on in. A story might present itself and I’d steer it toward a math resolution. Or maybe I’d have a neat bit of math just waiting for the words to give it life. Shipwrecks, vampires, malevolent robots, even tough-as-nails fashion editors became part of the Perfectly Perilous Math mix.
Then New York’s Museum of Math checked the page proofs. With just a few adjustments, the book was aligned with the Common Core Standards in mathematics for Grades 4–7. That bit of information has been a beacon for parents and teachers who are eager to harness children’s math potential.