July 31, 2012
Listen here. Aired on NPR's Morning Edition.
I heard about Laura Overdeck's nonprofit Bedtime Math completely by accident while having coffee with a friend of hers a few weeks ago. Overdeck was always good at math (to put it mildly - she majored in astrophysics) and wanted her kids to be too, but was concerned about the bad rap math has in this country. She wanted her children to find it fun and use it in everyday life, just as she had as a kid. So when her eldest child was two she and her husband started giving her a math problem each night. What started out as a family ritual has gone viral and now several thousand people receive her daily email containing a few kid-friendly math problems for kids and their parents to work through. Her point is that the more enjoyable and natural numbers are when children are little, the easier it will be for them to deal with math classes at school so that 'math anxiety' has less chance to set in, as it does with many children (me included). Listen to the piece to hear from Laura Overdeck, University of Chicago psychology professor and math anxiety expert Sian Beilock, and a couple of parents and their children working through some bedtime math.
There's another side to this story that I couldn't fit into the NPR piece. Laura Overdeck is particularly eager for more girls to become math fans and believes that by introducing them to numbers in a fun way at a young age, they have a far better chance of not turning away from the subject later on. Sian Beilock has done research that shows little girls pick up on older women's anxiety about math (mothers, teachers) and that this hurts their own math proficiency.