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Sunday, May 2, 2010

You Can Count On Monsters - Richard Evan Schwartz (Non-Fiction)

Released February 2010

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The requirement of schools to pick a math program, no thanks to No Child Left Behind, turned math nightmarish in my household. My son always understood math without issue. He dodged the school's change to Everyday Math, plus I worked with him at a young age teaching him how to add, multiply, subtract and divide using M&M's, and he has a mind that quickly grasps the information and runs with it. Today he amazes me because he takes accelerated classes in high school and while I struggled with Algebra and those absurd word problems, nothing trips him and his A+ average up.

On the other hand, my daughter has struggled. Despite my attempts to return her to the math I grew up with, her teachers all balked if she didn't "show her work" using the Everyday Math principles. Until we found a teacher in 6th grade who refused to teach Everyday Math, she struggled to get Bs in math. It was frustrating for me and often had her in tears.

Given this, I truly believe every parent should have the right to find a math system that works for their child. That's just what Richard Evan Schwartz has done here. The book opens with a break down of how multiplication works. He uses circles, similar to my use of M&M's, to get the basic principle down on paper for kids to see visually. That aspect really works for me and I had my kids look at it and they agree.

The rest of the book progresses to monsters. Each prime number is illustrated as a monster somehow capturing the number it represents. For example, the star shaped number five monster has five points. The three monster is triangular. All of that is clear to the reader. Illustrations are whimsical and will definitely appeal to elementary aged children. The remainder of the book covers multiplication up to 100.

As the pictures advanced, I started struggling to pick out the monsters in the image. My kids usually could, but they said it slowed them down. Granted, they're past multiplication now, so it's hard to go back and try to learn a new method at this point.

Given that, I think younger children who have parents with good eyes at breaking apart the monsters will find plenty of use for this book. I do suggest looking at some of the pictures in the book first, use Amazon's Search Inside This Book feature, to see if you think it is the right fit for your child.

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