Funville Adventures: Blake’s Story

Today we have a guest post — an exclusive tale by Sasha Fradkin and Allison Bishop, authors of the new math storybook Funville Adventures. Enjoy!

Funville Adventures is a math-inspired fantasy that introduces children to the concept of functions, which are personified as magical beings with powers.

Each power corresponds to a transformation such as doubling in size, rotating, copying, or changing color. Some Funvillians have siblings with opposite powers that can reverse the effects and return an object to its original state, but other powers cannot be reversed.

In this way, kids are introduced to the mathematical concepts of invertible and non-invertible functions, domains, ranges, and even functionals, all without mathematical terminology.

We know about Funville because two siblings, Emmy and Leo, were magically transported there after they went down an abandoned slide.

When they came back, Emmy and Leo shared their adventures with their friends and also brought back the following manuscript written by their new friend Blake.

Blake’s Story

Hi everyone! My name is Blake and I live in Funville. Before I met my new friends Emmy and Leo, I didn’t know there were places outside of Funville, but now I do! Emmy explained to me that people from her world don’t know about Funvillians and our powers, so she suggested that I write to you and tell you a bit about myself.

Each Funvillian has a special power. My friend Doug’s power is to make things twice as big. He can look at a cookie and make it double in size! Which really isn’t fair but it’s still nice, since he’s good at sharing the now mega-cookies with the rest of us. His brother Harvey can make things twice as small. Sometimes when Doug and Harvey are arguing, they make the same thing big and then small and then big and small over and and over again, which is really quite funny to watch.

My power is to erase things. In comes in very handy when I want to redo a drawing or clean up a spill. But it gets tricky sometimes when I play games.

Games in Funville are the best! I imagine they must go somewhat differently where you are, since in Funville everyone uses their powers while playing. Emmy calls this “cheating,” but we think it’s all in good fun! It makes games very exciting, but it also makes it hard to decide who wins. If my friend Heather uses her power to make the soccer ball too heavy to move when the score is 1-to-1, we usually have to declare a tie and play something else (I suspect she does this whenever she’s bored of playing soccer).

For a while, every time I tried to use my power to play a game, it didn’t work very well. The first time I played checkers I accidentally erased the checkerboard. We drew it back on, but it took awhile, because we had to guess how many squares there should be, and we had to try it a few times before it looked right again. The second time I erased the scoreboard in the fifth inning of a baseball game because I wanted to start over, but then it got dark before we could finish the game.

I don’t even get invited to play Scrabble anymore because I always erase letters I don’t like. I know I probably shouldn’t do this, but I just can’t help myself! And then sometimes I even forget what the letters were by the end of the game, so now we have too many blank scrabble tiles and we don’t know what they should be.

But then Emmy and Leo taught me about games you can play on paper, which we hadn’t been playing in Funville before. Leo taught me how to play tic-tac-toe, and soon everyone in Funville was playing it! Well, I guess not the original version — we had to change it to tic-tac-elephant, so that my friend Constance could play (her power is to turn anything into an elephant).

And Emmy taught me how to play hangman, where you come up with a word and the other players have to try to guess it one letter at a time. Harvey always beats me at that one when he’s guessing, because he keeps making the parts of the hangman so small that I can’t see them and I forget they are there, and so I keep drawing the same arm over and over again while he gets more guesses. And I always beat him when I’m guessing, because I can erase the parts and he forgets, too!

Whenever we play these games, it’s mine to shine — whenever a game is finished, I can erase the paper, and we get to play all over again!

Sometimes it’s tough having a power that can’t be reversed, and I wish I was like Harvey and Doug, who can always undo each other’s mistakes. But other times I’m proud I can erase things. It’s not always what we want, but sometimes a clean slate is exactly what we need.

Your Turn to Play

Dear reader, now it’s your turn to have fun with powers!

Talk with your children about ideas inspired by the Funville Adventures story.

For example, think of one of your favorite games to play on paper. (If you don’t have any, you can think of board games instead.) Would having Blake’s power help in the game?

Blake also mentions his friends Doug, Harvey, and Constance in his story. Would one of their powers be more useful? Or funnier?

Come up with your own powers that you’d like to have while playing each of your favorite games.

For inspiration, enjoy this father’s conversation with his son after reading Funville Adventures.

And if you’d like, you can play The Function Machine Game to experiment with functions of numbers. Be sure to let your kids have a turn making up function rules for you to solve!

Ready for More?


About the Authors

Sasha (A.O.) Fradkin has loved math from an early age and seeks to share that love of math with others. After receiving her PhD in mathematics from Princeton University, she worked for several years as a professional mathematician and taught enrichment math to children ages 4-10 at the Golden Key Russian School. Currently, Sasha is the Head of Math at the Main Line Classical Academy, an elementary school in Bryn Mawr, PA. She develops their math curriculum and teaches children in grades K-5. She writes a blog, Musings of a Mathematical Mom, about her teaching as well as various math adventures with her two daughters, and enjoys pondering exciting and engaging ways to present the beauty of mathematics to young children.

Allison (A.B.) Bishop grew up with a passion for writing and initially disliked math because it was presented as formulaic. She belatedly discovered the creative side of mathematics and science, and now sees it as a vital component of the curiosity that drives her life. She is currently a professor of computer science at Columbia University as well as a quantitative researcher at the Investors Exchange. She remains an avid fiction enthusiast and writer, and is always seeking new ways to expose young minds to creative mathematical thinking and fuel their scientific curiosity.

Check Out These Cool Math Sales

I’ve been following Sonya’s Arithmophobia No More blog for a couple of years, and I love the work she is doing. But this month, she’s teamed up with Lacy at Play, Discover, Learn (another great blog to follow!) to offer a humongous bundle of playful math.

You get math journaling pages, games, creative task cards, thought-provoking worksheets, and video training resources to help you build your child’s understanding of math from arithmetic to early algebra. Wow!

These activities are perfect for homeschooling families or anyone looking to supplement their child’s current math curriculum with effective discovery-based activities. If you’ve ever wondered what to do with those Cuisenaire rods you picked up on sale way back when, this bundle is for you.

I’m so looking forward to using some of these ideas with my elementary homeschool co-op kids next year!

Sale price is $30 from December 2-15.

Cuisenaire Rod Activities Blowout Bundle

But Wait, There’s More

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you’ve probably seen how much I love the blog, books, and classes available from the Natural Math folks.

Their newest book is just off the presses — Funville Adventures, a math adventure chapter book.

And until December 20, they’re having a holiday sale. Make your own bundle of any Natural Math books. Playful algebra, calculus for 5-year-olds, inquiry problems and more: Great deal!

Natural Math Book Sale

Stock Up on My Playful Math Books

Finally, if you’ve been wanting to pick up a paperback copy of Let’s Play Math or some of my game books, or maybe a set of dot-grid math journals, I’m currently offering a discount on bulk orders.

Bundle ANY assortment of titles. Stock up on books for your family, friends, or homeschool group.

  • 2–4 books: 15% discount off retail prices
  • 5–9 books: 25% discount
  • 10–19 books: 35% discount
  • 20+ books: 35% discount, and free Continental U.S. standard shipping or the equivalent discount off other shipping options

Bulk Order Playful Math Paperbacks

(US customers only: We’re sorry we can’t offer bulk discounts for our international readers, but the complexities of international duties and tax laws are too much for this very small family business.)

Do You Know of Any Math Deals?

Apollonian greetings from my homeschool co-op kids, and best wishes for a grace-filled holiday season.

If you’ve seen a great deal or holiday price on a math resource you love, please share!

Add your deal to the comment section below, so we can all take advantage of the math joy this season.


howtosolveproblemsWant to help your kids learn math? Claim your free 24-page problem-solving booklet, and sign up to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions.


Playful Math on Kickstarter

Have you noticed that we live in a wonderful era of mathematical innovation? Not only at the “it’s all over my head” level — which is growing faster than anyone can keep up with — but also at the Cool Math For Kids level.

For instance, our children can enjoy Patterns of the Universe, and Prime Climb, and This is Not a Maths Book, and Which One Doesn’t Belong?, and Tiny Polka Dot, and Math & Magic in Wonderland, and Spiraling Pentagons, and …

So many things! I’m sure I forgot one (or several) of your favorite modern-classic math books or toys. I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

And here are a few bits of new playful math. Click, support, and share!

Math Renaissance

In alternating chapters, Rodi Steinig tells stories about her math circle and exactly what happens there, while her daughter Rachel discusses why so many kids hate math, documents the ways math is taught in the classroom — and ways that can be improved.

I first discovered Rodi’s work through her chapter in Sue VanHattum’s wonderful collection Playing with Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and Passionate Teachers. I’ve been a fan of Rodi’s math circle blog for years, and I can’t wait to get my hands on her new book.

Funville Adventures

When 9-year-old Emmy and her 5-year-old brother Leo go down an abandoned dilapidated slide, they are magically transported into Funville — a land inhabited by ordinary-looking beings, each with a unique power to transform objects.

I had the fun of previewing this book. It’s a cute little fairy tale that should help launch family conversations about math.

Trouble with Monkeys

A boy wants to surprise his dad, but meddlesome monkeys keep getting in the way. The boy is interviewed by the local news, and the story escalates to involve pirates, ballerinas, ninjas — and the magic of our place value number system.

Lucy Ravitch, math blogger and author of The Pancake Menu, teams up with artist Travis Hanson (one of my favorite comic bloggers) to create a story that will build number sense.

This story reminds me of the Cookie Factory Model for long division. Place Value is a key to understanding many things in math.

GregTangMath Home Kit

I haven’t seen these games in person, but they sure look like fun.

And Others?

If you know a project we should all check out, please share in the Comments section below.


howtosolveproblemsWant to help your kids learn math? Claim your free 24-page problem-solving booklet, and sign up to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions.


Review: Math & Magic in Wonderland

Are you looking for a fun book to read over the summer? I just finished Lilac Mohr’s delightful Math & Magic in Wonderland, and I loved it.

Highly recommended, for kids or adults!

About the Book

Math-Magic-WonderlandA Jubjub bird disguised as a lark,
Borogroves concealing a snark,
When you’re in Tulgey Wood, you must
Be careful whom it is you trust…

With the discovery of Mrs. Magpie’s Manual of Magic for Mathematical Minds, Lulu and Elizabeth embark on an exciting journey to a realm inspired by Lewis Carroll’s poetry. The twins must use ingenuity and sagacity to solve classic logic puzzles that promise to uncover the book’s secrets and earn them The Vorpal Blade. In this interactive novel, the reader is invited to play along with the two heroines on their grand mathematical adventure.

Do you have the smarts to help Lulu and Elizabeth outwit the frumious Bandersnatch?

It’s time to enter Wonderland and find out!

–from the back cover of Math & Magic in Wonderland by Lilac Mohr

What I Liked

Puns, poetry, and plenty of puzzles. Tangrams, tessellations, truth-tellers and liars. History tidbits and many classics of recreational mathematics.

The sisters Lulu and Elizabeth seem real — though perhaps more widely read than most of us. They are different from each other. They make mistakes and have disagreements. But they never deteriorate into the cliché of sibling rivalry that passes for characterization in too many children’s books.

In each chapter, the girls must solve a language, math, or logic puzzle to proceed along their journey. Then a “Play Along” section offers related puzzles for the reader to try.

No matter how challenging the topic, the book never talks down to the reader.

What I Didn’t Like

… Um … Honestly, I can’t think of anything.

Since it’s traditional to criticize the editing of self-published books, I will say this: There was at least one place where the wording seemed a bit awkward. I would have phrased the sentence differently. But don’t ask me to identify the page — I was too caught up in the story to bother jotting down such a quibble. And I tried flipping through the book as I wrote this post, but I can’t find it again.

Buy, or Don’t Buy?

Buy. Definitely buy.

Unless you hate logic puzzles and despise Lewis Carroll’s poetry.

But for everyone else, this book is truly a gem. If you like The Cat in Numberland or The Man Who Counted, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy Math & Magic in Wonderland.

Useful Links

Disclaimer: Like almost all book links on my blog, the links in this post take you to Amazon.com, where you can read descriptions and reviews. I make a few cent’s worth of affiliate commission if you make a purchase — but nowhere near enough to influence my opinion about the book.

And Now for the Giveaway

Math-Magic-WonderlandLilac offered a paperback copy of Math & Magic in Wonderland for one lucky reader of Let’s Play Math blog.

The giveaway is done. Congratulations, Keshua!

But the comments section below remains open, and I’d still love to hear your answers:

  • Tell us about your favorite language, math, or logic puzzle book! Or share a book you’ve been wanting to read.

howtosolveproblemsWant to help your kids learn math? Claim your free 24-page problem-solving booklet, and sign up to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions.


New Book: Avoid Hard Work

I’ve loved James Tanton’s How to Be a Math Genius videos for years. He offers great problem-solving tips like:

  • Visualize: think of a picture.
  • Use common sense to avoid grungy work.
  • Engage in intellectual play.
  • Think relationally: understanding trumps memorization.
  • Be clear on what you don’t know — and comfortable enough to admit it.

Seriously, those are wonderful videos. If you haven’t seen them before, go check them out. Be sure to come back, though, because I’ve just heard some great news.

Natural Problem-Solving Skills

Avoid Hard WorkTanton has joined up with the NaturalMath.com team of Maria Droujkova, Yelena McManaman, and Ever Salazar to put together a book for parents, teachers, math circle leaders, and anyone else who works with children ages 3–10.

It’s called Avoid Hard Work, and it takes a playful look at ten powerful problem-solving techniques.

Join the Crowdfunding Campaign

For more details about Avoid Hard Work, including a 7-page pdf sample with tips and puzzles to enjoy, check out the crowdfunding page at Natural Math:

Read the questions and answers. Try the activities with your children. And donate to support playful math education!


howtosolveproblemsWant to help your kids learn math? Claim your free 24-page problem-solving booklet, and sign up to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions.


New Picture Book: Tessalation!

When I run a math circle or co-op class, I love starting with a picture book. This new beauty from Emily Grosvenor will be perfect.

You could say that Tessalation is a book about tessellations (repeating tiled patterns), but it is really a children’s picture book about discovering order in a chaotic world.

— Emily Grosvenor

Seeing Math in the World

In taking a playful approach to mathematics, I hope to open children’s eyes to math in their world. Schooly math lessons have led many of my math group kids to think a “pattern” has to be a strictly repeating (and rather boring) series of shapes or colors.

But in the real world, patterns are so important that American mathematician Lynn Arthur Steen defined mathematics as the science of patterns.

“As biology is the science of life and physics the science of energy and matter, so mathematics is the science of patterns,” Steen wrote. “We live in an environment steeped in patterns — patterns of numbers and space, of science and art, of computation and imagination. Patterns permeate the learning of mathematics, beginning when children learn the rhythm of counting and continuing through times tables all the way to fractals and binomial coefficients.”

Tessa Truman-Ling’s delight in patterns is contagious. And it will provide a wonderful jumping-off point for a variety of math activities.

Visit Grosvenor’s Kickstarter page to find out more about her lovely book:

Further Exploration


howtosolveproblemsWant to help your kids learn math? Claim your free 24-page problem-solving booklet, and sign up to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions.


Giveaway: Professor Povey’s Perplexing Problems

Professor Povey coverDo you have high school students, or do you enjoy puzzles yourself? Did you agree with my post last week, that Professor Povey’s new book looks like fun? If so, I’ve got some good news.

Oneworld Publications is offering a free copy of Professor Povey’s Perplexing Problems to two winners who live (or have a mailing address) in the United States. All you have to do is answer this question:

Do you have a favorite math or physics book?

How to Enter

Scroll down to leave a comment sharing one of your favorite books, and then click over to the Rafflecopter giveaway page (or this Facebook app) to confirm your entry.

giveaway winnersUpdate: The giveaway deadline has passed, but I’d still love to hear about your favorite book—‌I’m always looking for something new to read. 🙂

Don’t delay—‌the deadline for entries is Monday, September 28!

Remember: This giveaway is open to entrants with a U.S. mailing address only.

And don’t forget to leave your comment down below…