I love my new paperback math journal series. The books are sturdy, inexpensive, and fit nicely in my purse.

But as with any paperback book, these have one problem. How do I use them without cracking the spine?

When we exercise, we need to warm up our bodies with a bit of stretching to prevent injury. In the same way, we need to warm up a new book to protect it. The process is called “breaking it in.”

It only takes a few minutes to break in a paperback book:

Step by Step

Never force the book but help it limber up gradually, and it will serve you well.

Because my journals are working books, I take the breaking-in process a bit further than shown in the video:

(1) Set the book on its back and follow the process above. Press down each cover, but not completely flat — let it bend at the fold line, about 1 cm from the actual spine. Then press a couple pages at a time, alternating front and back, down flat on each cover.

(2) Flip through the pages of the book forward and backward to limber them up.

(3) Repeat the steps of the video. This time, gently lean the main part of the book away from the part you are pressing down. Aim for a 130–140 degree angle.

(4) Flip through the pages again. For paperbacks, you can even roll the whole book back and forth a bit — gently curving the cover and pages almost as if you’re trying to fold the book in half — to encourage flexibility.

(5) Optional: Repeat the breaking-in process one more time. This time, fold each section back as close to 180 degrees as it will go.

And you’re done!

The pages will still curve in at the fold line, where they connect to the spine of the book. You want that because it makes the book strong. But now they’ll also open up to provide a nice, wide area for writing or math doodling.

Socks Are Like Pants, Cats Are Like Dogs by Malke Rosenfeld and Gordon Hamilton is filled with a diverse collection of math games, puzzles, and activities exploring the mathematics of choosing, identifying and sorting. The activities are easy to start and require little preparation.

This April, the creative people at Moebius Noodles are inviting parents, teachers, playgroup hosts, and math circle leaders to join an open online course about multiplication. My preschool-2nd grade homeschool math group is eager to start!

Each week there will be five activities to help kids learn multiplication by exploring patterns and structure, with adaptations for ages 2-12.

The course starts April 6 and runs for four weeks.

Preliminary Syllabus

Week 1: Introduction.
What is multiplication? Hidden dangers and precursors of math difficulties. From open play to patterns: make your own math. 60 ways to stay creative in math. Our mathematical worries and dreams.

Week 2: Inspired by calculus.
Tree fractals. Substitution fractals. Multiplication towers. Doubling and halving games. Zoom and powers of the Universe.

Week 3: Inspired by algebra.
Factorization diagrams. Mirror books and snowflakes. Combination and chimeras. Spirolaterals and Waldorf stars: drafting by the numbers. MathLexicon.

Week 4: Times tables.
Coloring the monster table. Scavenger hunt: multiplication models and intrinsic facts. Cuisenaire, Montessori, and other arrays. The hidden and exotic patterns. Healthy memorizing.

Once again, the authors of Moebius Noodles are teaming up to offer a free course for families, math clubs, playgroups, and others who want to explore adventurous mathematics with kids of any age.

This short course will last only two weeks, and the topic is multiplication:

Both of my homeschool math circles (one with preschool-1st grade, and one with teens) thoroughly enjoyed the month-long problem solving course this summer, and we expect the new one to be just as much fun. Will you join us?

As with most of the Moebius Noodles courses, Maria and Yelena have adapted the activities for all ages from toddlers to adults. Where young ones go on a scavenger hunt for pretty snowflakes and cool truck wheels, older kids build bridges from multiplication to symmetry, spatial transformations, and proportions.

Visit the registration page to sign up no later than September 8. The main course activities will happen September 9th through 22nd. Expect to spend about two hours a week.

Most homeschoolers feel at least a small tinge of panic as their students approach high school. “What have we gotten ourselves into?” we wonder. “Can we really do this?” Here are a few tips to make the transition easier.

Before you move forward, it may help to take a look back. How has homeschooling worked for you and your children so far?

If your students hate math, they probably never got a good taste of the “Aha!” factor, that Eureka! thrill of solving a challenging puzzle. The early teen years may be your last chance to convince them that math can be fun, so consider putting aside your textbooks for a few months to:

Remodel the house. From financing to floor coverings, that is real math in action.

On the other hand, if you have delayed formal arithmetic, using your children’s elementary years to explore a wide variety of mathematical adventures, now is a good time to take stock of what these experiences have taught your students.

How much of what society considers “the basics” have your children picked up along the way?

Are there any gaps in their understanding of arithmetic, any concepts you want to add to their mental tool box?

I love Dover books, don’t you? They publish so-o-o-o-o many interesting titles at reasonable prices. I always have several Dover books on my wishlist, waiting for my next bit of extra cash.

But you don’t have to wait to enjoy free math from Dover books. Sign up for the Dover Sampler, and each week they will send an email with links to content from all sorts of books. Or try the Dover Children’s Sampler and Dover Teacher’s Sampler for coloring books, mazes, literature, and more. All the Dover samplers are completely free, and you can cancel at any time.

From Last Week’s Sampler

Last week’s email included a section on “Exploring Mathematics”:

And that’s only the beginning. Below, I’ve listed a wide variety of math-related links collected from past samplers. Though be warned: Dover does change its website from time to time, so these pages may disappear without notice.

As I was checking through archive posts and clearing out the dead links, I found a couple of links that I thought would be dead but which are still good. So I am re-posting them here, for your browsing pleasure:

Free Shakespeare for Fun and Copywork

CurrClick (which carries the Math Mammoth workbook series) is offering Quotations from Shakespeare’s Plays as a free download. This ebook includes copywork tips from Charlotte Mason and about 30 pages of passages from Macbeth, King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, etc.

What does it take to lead your nation through a crisis? Character, determination, wisdom, the courage of your convictions. What can we learn about leadership from those who have been there, done that?

Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill are two of these great leaders — men whose courage and conviction took their nations through challenging moments and forever altered the course of Western civilization…

You can see the publisher’s description of the book and read an excerpt here.

They also sent me a review copy, which I hope to write a blog post about sometime soon — though with our schedule this semester, I can make no promises. But from a quick flip through the book, I’ll give it a definite thumbs-up!

How to Enter the Giveaway

Remember, the book must be mailed to a U.S. address. If you live in the U.S., you have two ways to enter the contest:

Leave a comment on this post answering the question: What part of math do you find the hardest to understand or to explain to your children?

Post about the contest on your own blog (or on a homeschooling or parenting forum, if you don’t have a blog), then come here and add a comment with the link to your post.

You may do both, to double your chances — but please make sure your link is in a separate comment from your answer to the question, or I may forget to count it separately.

I will accept entries for a week and a half, through Friday, October 8th Monday, October 11th. (Extended due to family issues that made the weekend too busy!) After that, I will count up all the entries (numbered in order of their appearance in the comment section) and go to RANDOM.ORG to generate the winning number. I will email the winner to get your address, which I’ll then pass on to the publisher so they can send you your book.

Update

And the winner is . . . Lakshmi. Congratulations!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the giveaway. I enjoyed reading your comments, and you’ve given me several ideas for future blog posts.

CurrClick is running a Talk Like a Pirate Sale through Wednesday, October 22, and they hid 20 virtual treasure chests around their website — each with a free e-book inside. I haven’t found them all, but here are a couple of preschool and early-elementary treats:

Colors, Shapes, and Numbers, Oh My!
Colorful shapes to print and play with, plus ideas for games, classification, counting, and other preschool activities.

Papa Paulo’s Pizzeria
Beginner fraction activities with printable pizza manipulatives and games.

Who knows what else may be hiding in those CurrClick treasure chests? Have fun exploring!