Inspiration for a math comic book
For as long as I can remember, I have loved math. My mother was a math teacher, too, and games were always in our home. I'm lucky to have a career filled with activities I adore.
My career began as a high school math teacher in California where I worked with students who were English language learners and often the first in their families to graduate. When my family moved to Georgia, I stayed at home with my three young children, playing games and concocting new ideas to keep them entertained as we shopped through WalMart or waited for a table at a restaurant.
Eventually, I returned to school and earned my doctorate in Mathematics Education from Auburn University. As a professor at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia, I specialized in teaching future teachers the mathematics. That's a special field of mathematics that explored the depth of problem solving with whole numbers, fractions, geometry and data. It was a pleasure working with students in the classroom, and reconnecting with them as young teachers during the summer professional development workshops.
In 2010, I was asked to lead honors students at the university and I am now the Dean of the Honors College. I have the privilege of working with outstanding students who excel in every discipline from the arts and humanities to natural and social sciences. Every day, their work inspires me and challenges me.
But as a dean, I miss teaching math.
Each summer, I still teach workshops to elementary teachers, but during the academic year, math is a world away from my daily responsibilities. Then, a summer vacation in a beach house with my husband's family (we have five boys between us, and his sisters each have three boys -- I'll leave your imagination to a family beach vacation), I found a quiet moment, and began to write a comic book series.
Why comic books? My husband is a collector of comic books. He remembers amazing details of his uncle reading comic books to him or of times he purchased a particular issue. And that summer, at the beach, I saw him hand a comic book to his young 9 year old nephew. He was sunburned and sulking beneath the deck, until he held that comic book. He was absorbed.
What if a comic book could make a connection with children and get them to think about puzzles, math problems, or new ideas in mathematics?
Every child can learn math, but sometimes it is a struggle to find the medium that connects with them. Sometimes it is just the math, sometimes it is through art, and sometimes it is through literature.
Why not combine the three?
On my bookshelf
The following are some of my favorite books that inspire my work, or just what I truly enjoy!
Have you ever felt too timid to share your answer to a math problem? Too afraid to make a mistake? Then this book is for you!
I've admired Jo Boaler's work since graduate school when I first encountered her research in mathematics education. In her most recent book, Mathematical Mindsets, she crafts a rigorous argument for empowering all students to love mathematics by inspiring creative problem solving, valuing productive struggle and harnessing the power of understanding our mistakes. It's a "must read" for elementary teachers and parents.
The beautiful artwork and styling inspired me to develop my own didactic graphic novel that could be used in a mathematics classroom.
It's a unique graphic novel about Bertrand Russell, a mathematician and philosopher who attempted to solidify the logical foundations of mathematics. This biography captures his journey through reason as he espoused pacifism through two world wars. I was so fortunate to have stumbled upon the book while traveling in Oxford and visiting the famous Blackwell's bookshop on Broad Street.
I picked up this gem when waiting for my husband as he rummaged through boxes of comic books, looking for a rare variation in a Superman cover. It's charming!
And who in a school is most likely to be characterized as an alien or witch? That would be a math teacher. What fun it would be to create a crazy old math teacher to puzzle 5th graders!
Inspirations for Newton's Nemesis
My goal was to create a comic book with appealing art and an underlying narrative that values learning from mistakes and could teach children the concepts behind fractions.
Why fractions? That's when many children stop enjoying math or when they start saying, "I'm not GOOD at math!" Working hard at solving a puzzle makes you "good"at anything!