Friday, June 20, 2014

Playing with Math

Today's the day! The crowdfunding for Sue Van Hattum's book Playing with Math opens up. I'm excited about the book, proud to be part of it in a little way and so happy for her.

If there's one phrase that captures my approach to mathematics learning and teaching, it's 'playing with math.'  So I'm really cheesed that Sue has stolen this title for memoirs... wait. That's not where I was going with this. Besides, the full title is Playing With Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and Passionate Teachers

I didn't meet Sue until after she had moved away from here (West Michigan), but got to know her via what is now the Math-Twitter-Blogosphere, and then in real life on one of her return visits. In this book she has gathered together many of my favorite aspects of the math community and culture, plus more that I have yet to know.  I got to be a realatively early reader of the manuscript (found a v1 file on my computer!), and have seen it start good and get better from there. This is going to be an amazing resource. Her philosophy in building the book was very much about building a community, sharing the people and math of which she is so fond with you. I think you'll find it intriguing, entertaining and helpful. Bloggers, math circles, living math forum... Sue is great at connecting people.

I'm a great believer that teachers get better through conversation, and every piece in this comes across as powerful teacher or learner sharing. It's a rare anthology where you feel like you wouldn't cut a thing, but this is one of those. The pieces I have returned to more than once already include Bob and Ellen Kaplan's reflection on a prison math circle, Maria Droujkova's rejoicing in confusion, Malke Rosenfeld's mapping the territory, and Allisson Cuttler's putting herself in her students' shoes. And... it could easily become the table of contents. In editing, Sue worked hard to preserve the author's voice, make the book very inclusive of student and teacher diversity, and to represent each of her three communities.

And each teacher story finishes with a puzzle or game. Tanton, Halabi, Gaskins, Salomon... Van Hattum. In addition to editing, Sue is a great and reflective teacher, and her own writing and games are an important part of the book. It is very much like a teacher weaving a lesson together from student work and responses, the way she tells her vision of mathematics learning from such a wide variety of different authors.

Nix the Tricks and Moebius Noodles are both great examples of books that are from and for the math community, and this is a great next step. Please consider supporting it; I think you'll be glad you did.

Some other resources, reviews and comments:
A family favorite to which we were introduced by Sue. Our semi-annual gaming get togethers are now pretty highly anticipated!


  1. Thanks for the lovely review, John. And we can't wait to play with you all. July 2, right?

  2. I interviewed Sue last night for my podcast series. Your readers might be interested in listening to it.

  3. I am a student research assistant at Montana Tech of the University of Montana. Technology has created exciting ways to connect with others and form professional learning networks. As a part of an active member of a social media community made up of teachers, I wanted to contact you to ask you to participate in a study our research group is conducting.

    Research shows that face-to-face professional networks provide much needed professional and personal support to teachers. You and the community you belong to are providing these types of support using social media. We are interested in learning more about your experiences using social media to connect with other teachers and your opinions about online professional networks.

    The purpose of our study is to learn how professional learning networks created through social media are similar or different than face-to-face networks and what you feel are advantages of using social media to connect with other teachers. Our hope is that the results of this study will inform how professional networks for teachers are designed in the future. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to me at I will send you a link to a short online survey and will set up time for a short skype interview.

    If you have any questions you would like to ask about the study, please do not hesitate to contact me.


    Kaitlyn Rudy
    Research Assistant
    Department of Mathematical Sciences
    Montana Tech of the University of Montana