“Math Curse” by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith


A five-year old Sylvia is conversing with her three-year old brother on the topic of getting married. As it turned out, the siblings had some differences of opinion regarding the same sex marriage, but never mind.  Suddenly the girl asks her mom when she (Sylvia) will be able to get married. Her mom answers diplomatically that she can choose to do so when she turns 18.  “Oh, no!”, exclaims Sylvia sadly. “I will never get married then!” ????? !!!!! “I don’t know that number.”

You never thought there is a link between knowing numbers and getting married, did you?  And there surely are more arguments for doing ones’ best in the math class. Apparently, how well one does in math indicates how much one will earn.  No wonder. We do need more GOOD engineers, architects, programmers, accountants, inventors…. A list of professions suiting a math-wizz is loooooong. If you are good at math, you will always be employable, if not self-employed. But of course when you are five, six or seven, you don’t think about your future paycheck. You want  to have fun.  The books I suggest in this post and other posts make math not only fun, but also approachable and relevant on the verge of omnipresent. Kids learn to solve engaging mathematical problems without thinking thy are learning math. What’s more, they don’t even think they are learning at all.

In “Math Curse”  children get to see everyday things as math problems. This is exactly what happened to the boy in the book. As if under a spell, he couldn’t help seeing numbers, charts, fractions. He kept counting, adding subtracting, measuring… He took milk out of the fridge and wondered how many pints were in a quart. He counted kids on the bus and in the class. Then he counted the fingers in the class. There was pizza for lunch. He wanted 2 slices or 2/8?. Things got worse when English turns to be a word problem. If you take away ‘stick’ from a ‘lipstick’, will it equal ‘lip’? Even outside the school the problems continued. Counting money to buy candy: how many Lincolns are in one Washington coin? Hour by hour, the boy realized that “math was just a total problem, whether on Planet Tetra or Binary (or our Earth I guess). What do you think, True or False? 

Eventually the boy got out of the spell and beat the math curse. Until the science class, when his teacher said, “You know, you can think of almost anything as a science experiment…”

Clever, ingenious, hilarious…  A picture book and a math lesson in one. A new look at math and numbers in our lives. We are surrounded by curious math problems and “Math Curse” helps our children to see it. You have to see a problem if you ever want to solve it.

In the next post, we will talk and read about… nothing, nada, nic, niets, or simply, using the math languagezero.

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