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Big Learning News 5-4-04

Big Learning News
Karen Cole's Guide to Real-World Learning with Kids
Issue 2:17 May 4, 2004

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Table of Contents

Activity: Join the Bird House Network
Book Review: Math for Smarty Pants


Join the Birdhouse Network


Like its winter cousin, Project Feederwatch, The Birdhouse Network is a "citizen science" project organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You put up nest boxes, observe the birds that nest there, and submit your data. Everything you need to get started, including instructions for choosing or building nest boxes, is on the web site. Just click the buttons on the navigation bar at the top of the page.

Book Review
Math for Smarty Pants by Marilyn Burns, illustrated by Martha Weston (Little Brown & Company, 1982).
Ages 6 and up with help, 10 and up independently

This book has been around for awhile (there's one task involving a dial phone!), and it deserves the long run. There are professional mathematicians who trace the roots of their passion for math to this book. Math for Smarty Pants is a peppy, intelligent book by Marilyn Burns, a pioneer in bringing math to the masses. That's math the way mathematicians think about it - looking for patterns and relationships in numbers and shapes. Burns has a gift for presenting deep mathematics as if it were no more intimidating than a drugstore puzzle magazine, but a lot more fun.

There's a lot of variety in Math for Smarty Pants. There are puzzles, games, things to make, and fun little essays on mathematical oddities. The statistics chapter has a whole riff on pencils - how many are made each year, how many times they would circle the Earth if laid end to end, how long a line you could make with all those pencils - on and on.

The complexity and reading level of the activities varies too. You could buy this book for a child as young as 6 or 7 and find several activities to do with them. At 9 or 10, kids might pick up the book on their own and find many more items of interest. By 12 or 13 they'd be able to understand everything in the book and have fun with it independently. It's a book that your kids can come back to again and again.

Fight Hunger
You Click. Corporate Sponsors Pay. The Hungry Eat.
http://www.thehungersite.com .

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