Monday, December 21, 2015

Holiday Cheer

Well, the holiday break is almost upon us here at the University of Calgary and the only list I'm checking at this point is the one in my head for the  books coming home with me from the library.

Winter's Candle by Jeron Frame

And as expected, the list keeps changing and growing.  I mean many books can a person read in two weeks with company coming, meals to plan and shop for and then cook, puzzle-making, movie-watching, and dinner-settling walks?  Apparently, many....Many, many, many.

Marguerite's Christmas by India Desjardins
A Gift by Yong Chen

Can't wait!

Wishing you much holiday cheer celebrating the traditions that bring you joy.

Happy New Year, Everyone.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Holiday shopping list

If you work with children's literature you've probably been asked once or twice (at least) what would be a good book for a daughter, son, grandchild, niece, nephew, 13 year-old boy who doesn't like to read and only wants to play video games, etc. at this time of year.

This year co-worker Paula and I spent some time at a local bookstore browsing the shelves looking for titles to add to a list that we would circulate to our co-workers and students with recommended titles for this year's gift giving season.

It was great fun adding familiar favourites and discovering a couple of new titles along the way for ages 4 to 18. Dividing books into groups was fun too as it allowed us the freedom to classify by types of readers not just by age. The list was long enough that we decided publishing it in sections over four days would be less overwhelming.

If you're curious (or perhaps, desperate) to see what made our list click on Recommended Literature for the 2015 Holidays.

Some of my personal favourites include:

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

I Really Like Slop (Elephant and Piggie series) by Mo Willems

The Day the Crayons Came Home by D. Daywalt

Hold Me Closer: the Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan

Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

Popular: a Memoir, Vintage Wisdom for the Modern Geek by M. Van Wagenen

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

Truth Commission by Susan Juby

Book with a Hole by Herve Tullet

Wet Dog by Sophie Gamand

 If you're not in the market to buy books but still want to pick up a couple of our recommendations, stop by the Doucette Library.  We do have most of these titles.

Happy shopping!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Answers the question “When would I ever use this in real life?”

In this week’s blog I’d like to draw your attention to a series of books called You Do the Math.

There are four books that embed mathematics into real life situations such as designing a skyscraper or heading out into space or solving a crime or flying a jet fighter.

I think the books will initially appeal to many kids because of the topics and the graphic novel approach in telling the ‘story’. The ‘stories’ are not the best part of these books but I don’t think that was their intent.  I think the best thing about them is taking interesting situations and showing how mathematics is used in real world applications.  Each book is illustrated with a consistent narrator who accompanies the reader and poses them math questions in every two-page spread.

The questions are supposed to be answered by the reader and if they have some understanding of the concepts involved then it’s likely they will be able to answer them.  (Answers are available for each question at the back of the book.  There are no explanations as to how answers were derived.) Working with many facets of geometry, algebra, basic computation, ratios, decimals, etc. is required to solve the problems posed by our narrators.  The books don’t focus on any single mathematical topic but use whatever skill is required to answer the problem for that particular situation.

For example, when designing and building a skyscraper it’s important to know how its shape and height (number of floors) is best understood using geometry. Selecting a suitable building site requires assessing and interpreting data related to physical features of the site and coordinates. The actual building stage requires digging a foundation and determining appropriate building materials that necessitates basic computational skills.  Within the skyscraper there will be offices, apartments, restaurants, hotels and stores all having unique needs for electricity and plumbing again determined using basic computations. And so on.

Data is displayed as various charts, tables, timelines and maps requiring the skill to understand how the information is organized and then interpreting it.

All four books are written by Hilary Koll and Steve Mills and include these titles:

Bringing these volumes into a math class, grades 5-8 perhaps, would offer a different approach to teaching some of these concepts by showing a real world application. Some of the math concepts may not be familiar with students and will have to be taught.  But bringing these titles into science and STEM classrooms would also be beneficial as a way to engage students using math and in real life situations. 

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