Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: Math Dictionary For Kids

The Essential Guide To Math Terms, Strategies, and Tables.

by Theresa R. Fitzgerald

Grades 4-6 (new edition)

When I first opened this updated dictionary, I wondered a bit at its method of organization. Instead of one large reference dictionary (as I was expecting) it was organized into the various mathematical categories: geometry, measurement, decimals, etc. So if I were looking for the definition of numerator I would have to go to the section marked Decimals, Fractions, Percents, and Ratios. I did, and there it was: “The number that is written above the line in a fraction. It tells how many parts of the whole are being considered.” There was an accompanying illustration with a fraction and an arrow pointing to the numerator. Which makes vastly more sense when you think about it, because not only does this contextualize the term for the student (numerator = fractions), but it eliminates the need to thumb through masses of other distracting concepts, as well as avoiding the possible pitfalls of having to cross-reference anything unfamiliar (ie: “Numerator: See also Fraction”). It was all there in one neat, concise, well-defined chapter.

In fact, it was so neat and so concise and so helpful I briefly bewailed not having had it years ago, when we first started homeschooling. The Quick Reference Guides, for example, were exactly what we’d needed. They remind the student briefly as to the hows and whys of some of the more trying math concepts kids encounter around grade 4: decimals, fractions, multiplication, and division. No long complex explanations or strange formulaic scribbles, either: this math dictionary does it simply and economically - just the ticket for most math students.

And if you’ve ever been confronted by that peculiar item known as the geoboard (as, ahem, I was), you will be thrilled to see that there is a truly excellent chapter entitled Learning With Manipulatives. Not only does the author explain the many (impressive) uses for the geoboard, she also demonstrates how to use graph paper, Base 10 blocks, hundred charts, mirrors, pattern blocks, tangrams and tiles. This section is, like the dictionary portion, generously illustrated with diagrams, pictures, and visual examples, so there’s no mistaking what to do with that bag of second-hand tangrams your friend gave you, or how to build geometric solids at home (tip: miniature marshmallows work great but leave the toothpicks rather sticky).

In addition, there are also measurement conversion tables, square root charts, prime number charts, and more. And it’s all in one neatly bound soft-cover volume. This dictionary is an invaluable and inexpensive guide for any young math student.

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