Friday, October 18, 2013

Bedtime Math - what an excuse to stay up late!

Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late
by Laura Overdeck; illustrated by Jim Paillot
ages 3-8; 96 pages
Feiwel & Friends, 2013

Laura Overdeck loves numbers. Granted, she's got a degree in astrophysics, so she gets an automatic pass into the math world.... but numbers shouldn't be scary, she thinks. To anyone, whether they're a teacher or a parent or a kid. So when her first child was two years old, Laura and her husband started counting out stuffed animals and creating bedtime riddles. It was when their third child demanded math problems that they realized they were on to something: a flashcard-free home where math had become a favorite bedtime activity, much like reading a story is.

Now Laura's pulled some of her favorite problems into a book, Bedtime Math. I posted a review of the book over at STEM Friday, but here's a sample of one of her problems - a seasonal one at that:
 If you have giant pumpkins that weigh 1,000 pounds each, and your car weighs 4,500 pounds, how many whole pumpkins do you need to outweigh your car? For big kids she asks: what weighs more, 4 of the 900-pound pumpkins or 5 of the 700-pound zucchinis?

A few weeks ago Laura graciously answered a few questions about why Bedtime Math is so important. It started back in college when she was figuring out such things as how much the universe weighs and whether the universe is growing or collapsing. Astrophysics, says Laura, is a lot of math!

Laura: I took a teacher prep class, and that got me thinking how math and science are taught - and how we make this stuff approachable. Years later, as a mom, I see how math anxiety pervades our society. There are elementary teachers who are afraid of math, and parents. We need to break this cycle. (check out Laura's TED talk below)

Archimedes: In your book you mention that math literacy is every bit as important as language and reading.

Laura: Yes! Parents read to kids all the time, and children have a positive view of reading. So why not math? Even if parents don't love math, they can weave it into daily life in a way that makes math fun. That way children can see that math is fun before they set foot into their first classroom. The thing is, we use math every day, and it shouldn't be relegated to the "homework" category. We can play with math while in the car, or before breakfast or any time that is not school - and that way the message becomes "math is not homework; it's part of everyday life."

Archimedes: Aside from never saying "Oh, I never did well in math...", how can math-phobic parents help their kids fall in love with math?

Laura: There are so many simple things. When playing with toy trucks you can ask: if the truck drives 2 feet this way and then 3 feet that way, how many feet does it drive? There are so many ways to draw children into mathematical thinking, and the more you explore, the more likely a child can find a math area where he or she has strength. Children have different math intelligences- some have an easier time with geometry and spatial orientation, while another might be more inclined towards engineering and another more in tune with the language of algebra.
Head over to Laura's website,Bedtime Math - and sign up to get a nightly problem. Today's review is part of the STEM Friday round-up. Check out the other science books and resources reviewed this week. Then on Monday, we're joining Abby the Librarian for Nonfiction Monday.
 Review copy provided by publisher.


  1. What an awesome idea! Hope this is a continuing series, because I can see a real need for it.

    1. Look for the next book to come out this spring - I'll be featuring it here.

  2. This sounds pretty awesome! All those numbers would put me to sleep for sure. But it would probably be fun for kids. I'll have to check this one out. Thanks!

    1. what kind of math do dogs do? and is it base-ten or some other kind? inquiring minds want to know.