Susan Cahalane, a research scientist who became an elementary school science teacher, shares fun science experiments and activities on her blog, Science for Kids. As a fan of Bedtime Math, she happily shared five thoughts about math.
1. How did you feel about math as a child and what shaped that opinion?
What a difference a great teacher can make! I loved math as a kid because I had teachers who shared their love of math with me. Their enthusiasm was contagious!
2. What is your favorite math memory?
I learned my times tables through the use of flashcards at school. I loved when we got to partner up with a classmate and we raced to see who could do the most multiplication cards in 5 minutes. I thought it was so much fun, little did I realize I was memorizing something I would use my whole life!
3. Share an important “Aha!” math moment from your life.
I remember learning about a googol (the digit 1 followed by 100 zeroes) and a googolplex. My “Aha” math moment came when I realized that the biggest number I could think of could always be increased by one to give me an even bigger number. The infinity of numbers has always fascinated me!
4. What advice do you have for parents who want to create a math-friendly environment?
Speak to kids in a positive way about math, even if you don’t like math! We as teachers and parents are heir greatest influences, so let’s be positive ones! I often hear adults saying things like, “I’ve never been good in math” or “I’ve always hated math.” Kids hear you and pick up on the negative feelings towards math – so try to be positive!
5. Girls often like and excel in math in the early grades, but do not pursue degrees or careers in math later on. How can we involve and retain more girls in math?
I always do an activity with my 2nd graders where I ask them to draw a scientist. Inevitably, 95% of my students draw a person who looks like Albert Einstein – always a man! We have to show more images of women in math & science in order for girls to see themselves in math/science careers. When we do messy science experiments in my classroom, I wear my white lab coat and tell my kids about my experiences as a scientist because I want them to see the image of a woman scientist. We need to combat stereotypes such as boys are better in math and science than girls and that careers in math and science are for men. There was a recent controversy over a girls t-shirt sold by a national children’s store. On the shirt, it showed 4 choices of what girls are good at: shopping, music, dancing, math. Which one do you think was left unchecked?! Things like that do nothing to boost our girls’ confidence in math. Thank goodness that shirt was pulled immediately after it hit shelves!