Author multiplies interest in math by subtracting boredom

Nathan Hager,

WASHINGTON – Train A leaves Chicago traveling 100 miles per hour. Train B leaves New York traveling 150 miles per hour. Both cities are 600 miles apart. Where will the two trains meet?

Did math problems like this make your eyes glaze over when you were a kid?

Thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to find the answer, though Googling won’t make kids any better at math. Additionally, one education author argues boring math problems aren’t doing them any favors either.

“If I can make it engaging, if I can make it wacky to some extent, a bit funny, but somehow drawing the child into the heart of the problem,” says Sean Connolly, author of “The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math.” “Then that’s the first step to solving it.”

The book blends middle school math with adventure stories to engage students in the three Rs: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. It promises to teach daring young mathematicians how to “defeat vampires using algebraic equations, destroy an out-of-control asteroid through geometry and escape an enemy spy using ratios and proportions.”

Connolly, who’s written more than 50 educational books for children and adults, began a series of adventure-themed math and science books when his twin son and daughter reached upper elementary.

“The old gender stereotype kicked in, and my son was showing a real interest in science, and his sister was getting turned off,” Connolly says. “So I was trying to get some way to get both of them on the same wavelength and have a bit of fun.”

He hopes the book will cross gender boundaries and engage both boys and girls in reading and math — subjects U.S. students lag in compared with other countries in terms of test scores and hours of study.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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