Playing With Math — the Book


Update: The crowdfunding campaign is now closed and the book is in the final stages. It should be headed to the printer soon. Check the Playing With Math homepage for publication and ordering information.

There are only a few days left to reserve your copy of Playing With Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and Passionate Teachers. I don’t have time to finish the review I hoped to write, so instead I’ll share some of my favorite quotes from the book:

What do mathematicians do? We play with math. What are little kids doing when they’re thinking about numbers, shapes, and patterns? They’re playing with math. You may not believe it yet, but you can have fun playing with math, too.

— Sue VanHattum, editor

We had a discussion at the end of the club on how we are all confused now, but pleasantly so, and how important it is to rejoice in confusion and to be comfortable with it. Adults often strive very hard to get rid of any and all possible traces of confusion for kids, making things dreadfully boring.

— Maria Droujkova, after a math circle exploration of infinity

All it talkes to do mathematics is opportunity, a frustrating problem, and a bit of stubbornness.

— Ellen Kaplan, math circle leader

Our own school experiences can make it hard for us to teach without being tempted to “help them master” a concept that they may or may not be ready to master. What we never learned in school was the concept of playing around with math, allowing ideas to “percolate,” so to speak, before mastery occurs, and that process may take time.

— Julie Brennan, homeschooler

4 hurricane learning lp md

The most profound learning often takes place silently and invisibly, in between activities and away from prying eyes. It is here that all those pieces of information, having been shaved from actual experience, are pulled inward to jostle against one another in various combinations and arrangements until gradually, or sometimes suddenly, a new understanding emerges.

— Holly Graff, unschooler

I do a mean T. Rex impression and the class was convulsed in giggles — the perfect way to enter a “hard” math lesson. I chucked the planned lesson for the day, and we went with the dinosaurs, and eventually various other creatures with different numbers of digits. I asked the class how the T. Rex would count. After all, it has only three fingers. I’ll admit to a lot of roaring and stomping as I, the T. Rex, became more and more frustrated trying to write a note to my mother in which I wanted to tell her that I had eaten those four velociraptors.

— Michelle Martin, elementary teacher


It is the process of sharing — of not only creative and insightful problem-solving approaches, but also memorable moments filled with camaraderie, generosity, and incomparable joy. That is why I love math.

— Luyi Zhang, math major

Remember that joy and passion lead to more learning than duty ever did.

— Sue VanHattum, editor

This book truly captures the joy and passion of learning (and teaching) mathematics. Whether you love math and want to share it with your kids, or whether you fear and loathe math and need help getting over that hurdle so you won’t pass your fear on, Playing With Math will encourage you to see math more deeply and play with it more freely.

Excerpts from Playing With Math

If I’m reading the website aright, the crowdfunding campaign for Playing With Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and Passionate Teachers ends in the early wee hours of Sunday morning. Be sure to place your order by Saturday, July 19th!

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