During the rethinkMath workshop with teachers of mathematics at the Riverdale Country School one interesting topic came up in our discovery phase — a problem that most teachers face but are not sure how to approach: “How do I get students to retain information over winter, spring, summer break?”  This issue seems particularly significant to the teaching of mathematics as the subject is cumulative and without the ability to count, estimate, or conceive of a long list of principles, it is nearly impossible to move onto other more complex topics.

While pondering this issue, and contemplating how the rethinkED team might be able to support teachers in tackling this retention issue in a real way, I came across a small article about some research being conducted by Laura Overdeck, the founder of Bedtime Math. Overdeck’s approach to helping children gain mathematics skills is different, and her hypothesis is quite compelling. Laura studies astrophysics, and as a mother she recognized that in her bedtime routine with her young children literacy was paramount (every child loves a great story), but that mathematics and problem solving were missing. She began developing short questions that sparked her children’s interests and were fairly short mental math exercises; she discovered that the questions successfully reduced inhibitions toward math.

Bedtime Math has since become a non-profit with programs that offer questions and ideas for activating mathematical thinking in a casual way for children of different ages — lunchtime, bedtime, cartime. The problems are engaging and rich with content about history, science, and life in general.

Some other interesting approaches attempting to change the culture of keeping math in the classroom and to these concepts  into our daily conversations with kids:

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