Too many of us believe that math must be taught with lecture, followed by worksheets, wrapped up with tests. Only after showing proficiency in a particular area may a student proceed to the next step.
Where are the colorful characters that developed math as we know it? Where are the problems that stumped humankind for generations, until some creative soul said, "Aha!" Where are the explanations of the purposes and applications of all this math? Nowhere in a traditional textbook, that's for sure.
Supplementing mathematics with books about math (as opposed to "math books") can bring a traditionally dry subject to life. Why math isn't taught like this in schools, I have no idea. But you're homeschooling, aren't you?
A wonderful addition to any home library is the Murderous Maths series written by Kjartan Poskitt and published by the same folks who gave us Horrible Histories, Horrible Science, and Horribly Famous series.
With intriguing names like Numbers, the Key to the Universe, Mean and Vulgar Bits, and Do You Feel Lucky?, students will hardly realize that these are math books. Text is combined with cartoons, illustrations, humorous asides, and knowing nods to the reader, all with the attitude that this is stuff your teacher doesn't want you to know and maybe doesn't even know himself.
Please don't make the mistake of thinking, "My child has barely memorized the multiplication tables, so how can she understand more complex math?" These books introduce new ideas in a fun and engaging manner. While a reader may not be able to solve a page of calculus after reading these books, she will have been exposed to more advanced formulas and equations, read about shortcuts and tricks, and generally found math entertaining.
On a personal note, my eldest son has just about read the ink off all the Murderous Maths books he has. Many's the night he's come bounding down the stairs to share some new insight he's gained from the books. Enthusiasm for mathematics is worth every penny.
Article by Sarah J. Wilson