Prather’s Pick: Learning about math from an alien
By now children have settled into the new school year and are working on math as a part of the daily classroom routine. The narrator of “I’m Trying to Love Math,” this week’s picture book for children — written by Bethany Barton — says that “4 in 10 Americans hate math.” This book is an attempt to turn that around.
The book’s narrator, someone unknown to the reader, does not like math. Then a purple, green-spotted space alien with three eyes comes along in his little space ship. He thinks it is interesting that the narrator is using math, such as percentages and a circle graph, to explain how much he doesn’t like it. Some textbooks with titles such as “Math,” “Arithmetic,” “More Math,” and “Even More Math” are piled up on one of the pages.
So the narrator wants to know what the alien knows about math, anyway, and, surprisingly, he knows a lot. He says that math is understood all over the world, no matter what language is spoken.
Also, the alien claims that golden records with all sorts of Earth information— including math — were sent into deep space aboard Voyager spacecrafts for aliens to discover.
The narrator says that scientists should have sent cookies instead of math. The alien doesn’t know what cookies are so the narrator uses a word problem (a recipe) to bake some. The alien nibbles on a cookie and points out that without math the cookies would be a burnt-up mess.
Next, the narrator decides to solve a math problem: 785 x 5. He thinks that if his mind is on cookies, maybe he will love the math problem. No such luck; the narrator is soon bored. So he fills up the book’s pages with all sorts of numbers and symbols and pretty soon the reader can hardly see the original problem.
The narrator suggests that they shake the pages to make some of the numbers and symbols fall out. There are even dotted lines, in the shapes of hands, to show the reader where to grab onto the book. What fun for the reader!
There’s a lot more to this book, including the importance of math to music, how it is used to figure the costs of things, symmetry of living things, pizza, and a whole lot more!
There’s a surprise at the end of the book. What a fun teaching aid it would be to an elementary math class.
This week’s book new (2019) book is published by Viking. It costs $17.99 in hardcover or you can find it with new books in the children’s room at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.