I do love Math in that silly non-reciprocal way, because Math often does not love me. I like the logic and beauty of Math, I do not love the rigidness of Math. Sometimes Math refuses to make sense to me, sometimes I am unable to grasp what Math is telling me, maybe sometimes I am not fully engaged and listening…maybe.

When I access my Math Brain, I can understand it, Math, that is. I have one, a Math Brain, I just do not always choose to engage it. It is a choice, for me, anyway. I can feel myself grasping for my sense of numerative-ness, it’s sort of like looking for your keys when you can’t find them at first – not the panicky part that happens later – just the sort of searching, reaching, wondering part.  Some people have more immediate access to their Math Brains, sometimes, I understand, these Math Brains do not shut off and these people are hugely talented/gifted/good in Math. These people may never search for a prime number, a multiplication fact, an algebraic equation. They know when a quadratic equation is staring them down and what to do with it (I call my dad).

Lately, when faced with Math homework help questions, I have adopted a new strategy. I do not try to figure out the problem ahead of my child (usually a useless exercise) but instead, I listen. I sit down next to my child and say, “Show me the problem” and “Explain what you are supposed to do”.  As it is explained to me, I listen with full attention and engage that somewhat dusty corner of my brain, the part that doesn’t make up stories or get caught up in rapture over a color or an outline or a tree or a hawk. I listen. I am present in the moment.  As the problem is explained (step by step as the teacher taught it), I ask questions, and the answer reveals itself and I understand and my child understands.  This is not the Math of my childhood. This Math isn’t forced or fraught with anxiety, it isn’t tearful or frustrated. This is a new way of looking at Math for me, a better way, a way that my children have shown me. I am good at Math.

I like this book because it is beautiful and whimsical and colorful and fun while it teaches math, who can ask for more than that? Numbers are represented by monsters, pretty, math-y monsters. This is a great book to help children to understand prime numbers (only divisible by itself and 1) and composite numbers (divisible by numbers other than 1 and itself). It shows the numbers as having personalities, colors and shapes, and that, I understand, is how Math Brains are engaged.

Math Isn’t So Scary With Help From These Monsters : NPR.

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