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.

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.


How to Break In Your New Math Journal

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. Even roll the book back and forth a bit — curving the cover and pages as if you’re trying to fold the book in half — to encourage flexibility.

(5) 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.


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.


If You Read Fiction, Check This Out

I love reading fiction, especially when I find a good story by a new-to-me author. And that’s why I LOVE the Fiction River anthology series. I’ve been reading it for the last three years, and I just signed up for a two-year subscription renewal.

If you like page-turning, heart-wrenching, uplifting (mostly) stories that cross and transcend genre, check it out:

I’m not the only one who enjoys Fiction River — the Kickstarter drive met its funding goal in only 23 hours. Wow! But there’s still plenty of time to get in on the fun…

Continue reading If You Read Fiction, Check This Out

New Fantasy Adventure Novel by Homeschooled Teen Author

If you or your children enjoy clean fantasy tales, check out the new installment in my daughter’s serial quest adventure The Riddled Stone, now available at many online bookstores.

Click here to see the whole series.

How Can a Knight Fight Magic?

Betrayed

Trained by the greatest knight in North Raec, Sir Arnold Fredrico dreamed of valiant deeds. Save the damsel. Serve the king.

Dreams change. Now the land teeters at the brink of war. As a fugitive with a price on his head, Arnold struggles to protect his friends.

But his enemy wields more power than the young knight can imagine.

Free Online Preview

4stars 2016-01-08
238 pages, ebook: $3.99, paperback: $14.99.

Buy now at:
Amazon-Kindle-logo Barnes-Noble-logo kobo-logo ibookstore-badg Scribd_logo Smashwords-logo CreateSpace-logo

Continue reading New Fantasy Adventure Novel by Homeschooled Teen Author

Join the Fun: Math & Magic Virtual Book Club

Math-Magic-WonderlandEleven weeks of mathematical playtime kicks off this week over at Learners in Bloom blog.

Each week, we’ll be playing with the math, language, and logic topics found in a single chapter. I’ll be posting ideas for extension activities, videos demonstrating the concepts for the week, and additional resources. I’m really excited for the opportunity to share all the extra ideas that have been floating around my brain which I didn’t have room to include in the book (as in Marco Polo’s famous words: “I did not tell half of what I saw.”)

— Lilac Mohr

Here’s a Quick Taste of Week One

This Week’s Activities

Lilac’s blog post includes a full schedule for the eleven-week book club, featuring plenty of classic math puzzlers to play with. Here are the topics for this week.

  • Read Chapter 1: Mrs. Magpie’s Manual
  • Alliteration
  • Memorizing digits of Pi
  • Palindromes
  • Calculating your age on other planets

It looks like a lot of fun. I highly recommend the book (read my review), and I’m sure you and your children will enjoy discovering math and magic with Lulu and Elizabeth.

Check it out: Math & Magic in Wonderland Virtual Book Club, Week One.


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.