A New "Math Art" Activity Book That's Actually Written By A Teacher

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A new math book written by a former Bronx schoolteacher exemplifies what is possible when actual teachers are the ones creating and publishing lesson plans.

The "Centimeter Measurement" Lesson

I decided that incorporating art--a subject I knew elementary students loved--into my math instruction had a good chance of solving many of my problems.

http://www.mathactivities.net - If non-lawyers never write about law, and non-doctors never write about medicine, why are so many books about teaching written by authors with little or no classroom teaching experience?

Scholastic Professional Books, for instance, is one of the largest publishers of teacher resources. According to their mission statement, the company supports teachers as they “make the dozens of daily instructional decisions that may forever shape the lives of students.” But strangely, many of their books—including those offering lessons intended to be used in actual classrooms—are written by staff or freelance writers with no experience teaching a classroom full of rambunctious children.

Two popular Scholastic titles—MATHART PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES (by Carolyn Ford Brunetto) and EASY MATHART PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES (by Cecilia Dinio-Durkin)—aim to help teachers enhance their math instruction through the incorporation of art. But neither of these books are written by current or former schoolteachers. Not surprisingly, their lessons possess vague learning objectives, offer no assessment materials, and frequently rely on project materials not readily available in even the most well-stocked classroom.

In contrast, a new book written by Zachary J. Brewer demonstrates what is possible when a former teacher attempts to creatively integrate art into math instruction. MATH ART: HANDS-ON MATH ACTIVITIES FOR GRADES 2, 3, AND 4 presents twenty-seven projects, all of which state precise learning objectives, include reproducible assessment sheets, and require only convenient classroom materials (markers, crayons, rulers, construction paper, etc.).

Mr. Brewer’s book is a byproduct of necessity. “After a first year characterized by classroom discipline problems, unmotivated students, concerned supervisors, and my own ineffective math lessons," says Brewer, "I decided that incorporating art—a subject I knew elementary students loved—into my math instruction had a good chance of solving many of my problems.” And since Mr. Brewer understands that good teaching always ensures student awareness of learning objectives from a lesson’s outset, he created his lessons using “backwards design”—the theory that lesson plans should be written with an end goal firmly in mind.

Considering how uniquely difficult teaching can be, one should generally be doubtful of writers seeking to influence or profit from the profession without actually experiencing its challenges. And with so much new research attesting to the benefits of incorporating art into traditional subject matter, it is important that we carefully determine which books are best suited for the purpose.

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Pictures and more information about Zachary Brewer’s new math activity book can be found at http://www.mathactivities.net. The book is a supplemental curriculum that helps teachers introduce, reinforce, or expand upon the math topics their students are required to learn. By blending math and art, the curriculum is also capable of motivating students, decreasing classroom discipline problems, increasing student retention of knowledge, and assisting the instruction of English Language learners.

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Zachary J. Brewer
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