Resources for Teachers, Professors, and Homeschoolers
With co-author Dr. Faith H. Wallace, I have recently completed a book for Pearson Educational Publishing called Mathematical Literacy in the Middle and High School Grades: A Modern Approach to Sparking Student Interest. We hope this book will provide some innovative solutions for mathematics teachers, mathematics education professors, literacy coaches, homeschoolers, and media specialists who are challenged by the need to help students connect with the subject of mathematics. This book is designed to help teachers bring reading materials other than math textbooks into the classroom, including popular fiction (like mine), video games, poetry, junk mail, and blogs, thus stimulating mathematics-related reading and learning.
When I learned that Artifacts was being read in classrooms because of the way it incorporates math and science and history into the narrative, I wanted to give teachers and students a little background into how I incorporate my factual research into my fictional books. For teacher's guides directed specifically to each of my books click on the relevant book title:
The article below is taken from a talk I gave to a group of English teachers about ways to incorporate popular fiction (even mysteries!) into their curricula. I'm available to speak to groups of educators, and I'm also happy to correspond by e-mail with teachers considering using my work in their classrooms: firstname.lastname@example.org And I love to hear from students. I look forward to hearing from you.
A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Geometry Go Down:
Unexpected Ways to Use Popular Fiction in the Classroom
Fiction illustrates life, and life is not limited to the inside of an English classroom. By restricting our study of a book to its literary value—essentially studying the language and little else—we overlook the chance to explore subjects that a young person might find incredibly dry and boring in a textbook. Would you rather study a textbook on racial relations and poverty in 19th-century America, or would you rather read Huckleberry Finn?
Once you’ve got Huckleberry Finn in their hands, it’s a short step from the social sciences to the physical and biological sciences. Why do rivers change course? How does that affect the creatures (human and animal) who depend on that river for their livelihoods? How have humans affected the Mississippi River with their levees and their pollution in the years since Huck and Jim set sail?
I recently spoke with a teacher who was very excited about the potential for using my novel, Artifacts, in the classroom. I wasn’t completely surprised by the idea. It was chosen by the Voice of Youth Advocates ( http://www.voya.com ) as an “Adult Mystery with Young Adult Appeal,” so somebody (besides me) thinks that young people might enjoy reading it. The Florida Historical Society gave Artifacts their Patrick D. Smith Florida Literature Award, so I saw the potential for using it as a resource when teaching history. More surprising to me were the other ways my friend envisioned using my novel in the class room.
Since she is a math teacher, she was quick to point out that the murderer uses geometry to cover his crime, and the sheriff uses geometry again, to deduce where the killer was standing when the deadly shots were fired. Given that the story concludes with a hurricane to end all hurricanes, there’s a certain amount of meteorology imbedded in the story. And considering that the main character is an archaeologist, archaeology is woven into the book’s very fabric.
I was surprised, myself, by the variety of subjects I’d worked into my story, until I stopped and thought a minute about who I am. My education is in the sciences—I have a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics and a master’s degree in chemical engineering—yet I’ve chosen to write for my profession, so it’s apparent that I’m just interested in a lot of different stuff. I have a background in education, having taught physics, math, and computer science at the community college level and, more recently, having led church choirs for children of all ages. I like kids, which is fortunate, since I have three of my own, and I enjoy seeing them learn new things.
Once my friend pointed it out, I realized that Artifacts is chock-full of things that I’d like my own teenagers to learn, and I became very excited about the possibility of it being taught in schools and by homeschooling parents. I know of several schools that are already reading it, and I am as proud of that fact as I am of the awards I have received. Education is simply the key to everything, and we owe it to our kids to give them that key.