natural math, Playing With Math,

Playing With Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers & Passionate Teachers

Education GeekMom Reviews


Playing with Math, Sue VanHattum
Unleash the inner math geek. (

This is a book I need, you need, and your child’s teacher needs. Playing With Math isn’t a textbook. It’s a collection of great ideas by people who love math and know how to make it come alive for children.

Let’s admit that adults are often the people who strangle the life out of math in the first place. When kids are very small they love to count, discover patterns, solve puzzles, and play with shapes. In other words they’re doing what mathematicians do. Unfortunately, too many of us think it’s all about adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and otherwise following set rules to find one correct answer. Math lives beyond those limitations. It has to do with connecting disparate ideas, using logic, experimenting with probabilities, seeing whole systems. It’s entirely possible to delight in math as you might delight in music or film or a perfect sunset. Math, approached playfully, lets us see that everything is connected in exquisitely surprising ways.

Each chapter of Playing With Math is written by someone not very different from you; parents who have formed kids’ math clubs, homeschoolers who foster math enthusiasm, and teachers who use math in unexpected ways. The book includes puzzles, games, and other activities as well as a wealth of online resources. It also offers something more vital. The real-life experiences shared by the book’s 30 authors enlarge our vision of the role math can play in our lives, one that’s joyfully creative as well as purposeful.

Editor of the collection, Sue VanHattum, is a community college math teacher and mother of a young son. Flinging the doors open to math learning is what she does. She explains,

I love teaching math, yet throughout my twenty-some years of teaching I’ve struggled with the fact that what I want to teach is problem solving but what I do teach most of the time is how to follow recipes (here’s how you find the slope or the vertex, here’s how you factor, and so on).

I want to spread the joy I feel when I’m figuring out math ideas along with others. It was when I was preparing to teach kids at my son’s freeschool that I discovered some of the amazing resources I’ve now gathered into the book. I got involved with math circles and felt like that really changed my own relationship to math. I’ve felt more like a mathematician, worked harder and longer at tough problems (just for the fun of it), and finally found a home among other math-lovers.  I’m still learning how to bring that spirit into my students’ lives.

This book is one in a series coming out from the community incubator Delta Stream Media, developed by natural math pioneer Maria Droujkova. (Check out our recent interview with with the consistently fascinating Dr. Droujkova.)

Playing With Math is a wonderfully inspiring, entirely useful book. It shows you how to make the world of math come alive. That’s why this book is so necessary. Check out Sue’s blog Math Mama Writes and the Playing With Math site.  And support the book’s publication through its current crowdfunding campaign.

natural math, Playing With Math,
Put the fun back into math. (
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