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CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 10 . . . . November 11, 2016
Many students do not realize that numerous important and interesting careers require a strong background in mathematics. Consequently, math is a crucial subject even for young children. The challenge is to get students to understand the value of persevering in the face of math curricula that do not always make the subject exciting and give few real life examples. Students will often say that they can understand business math easily because of the direct application whereas algebra is difficult since there is no obvious use for the math. It is never too early to start letting kids know that every job requires certain kinds of background knowledge, especially math and science. That is where the "Math on the Job" series comes in.
What kinds of jobs appeal to children? How about sports, business, construction, health care, veterinary care and community service? These are the areas covered in the "Math on the Job" series, and the books do cover many of the kinds of high interest jobs that kids think of when asked what they want to do when they grow up. Each book starts with a brief introduction to the common theme of the work, and then there are three sections, one for each related job presented, such as medical doctor, registered nurse and nutritionist in The "Math on the Job" series does not attempt to teach the math concepts, although there is a 'Math Toolbox' section for each job. Rather, each career encourages readers to actually use the math in a real situation related to the job and then to use problem-solving skills to advance their understanding and make decisions. It is obvious that Richard Wunderlich is a teacher as the examples used are interesting, appropriate to the age and suitable to the job. At the end of each career section is a 'Pathways' segment. The best part is here: almost every one of the careers includes the advice to stay in school and study math and science as well as to seek help from guidance counsellor and to get more information from someone in the field. There are also many photographs of people in action, continuing the high-interest theme throughout the series.
The "Math on the Job" series does a fantastic job of connecting appealing careers with the math and science that are necessary for those who might want to take up that occupation. Each career is given 7 to 12 pages with enough consistency to make for easy reading. Beginning with a description of the job and then "Thinking like…", the job is then used to set up a problem that the rest of the section can use for the math concepts while encouraging students to analyse what is going on and make good decisions. Since many students do not see the value in studying mathematics, any interesting books that encourage them to stay motivated can only be considered a great addition to every library. The wide variety of jobs highlighted in this series make it appropriate for lots of kids with different interests. Richard Wunderlich has created a magnificent series of books that can entice readers into the wonderful world of math, and this is not an oxymoron. Some of us really do love math – and the earlier you start the more likely this is to happen.
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