The Bottom Line
By Danica McKellar; 297 pages. Subtitle: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail
Remember Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years? The actress who played her, Danica McKellar, grew up to become a math whiz, earning a Mathematics degree from UCLA and coauthoring a mathematical physics theorem. In this fresh and friendly book, she attempts to convince girls that math is easy and smart is cool. While it's not aimed at kids with learning disabilities, the tricks and strategies she suggests are perfect for them.
- Gives great, down-to-earth tips for doing math
- Teen- and tween-friendly terminology may help kids approach a dreaded subject
- McKellar is a great role model for inspiring girls be proud of their smarts
- Suggests mnemonics and other tricks that kids with learning problems will find helpful
- You may pick up some homework-helping tricks here, too
- Unless your child is watching "The Wonder Years" on re-runs, McKellar's name won't mean much
- Focuses on some middle-school topics that your child may or may not be dealing with now
- Cutesy personality quizzes don't really add much
- Boys struggle with math, too, but they're not going to be interested in the girly examples here
- That title -- ugh. It's funny, okay, but do we really have to use that language to be cool?
- Chapter 1: Prime Numbers and Prime Factorization
Chapter 2: Finding the Greatest Common Factor (GCF)
- Chapter 3: Multiples and the Lowest Common Multiple
Quiz #1: Are You a Mathophobe?
- Chapter 4: Introduction to Fractions and Mixed Numbers
Chapter 5: Multiplying and Dividing Fractions ... and Reciprocals
- Chapter 6: Equivalent Fractions and Reducing Fractions
Chapter 7: Comparing Fractions
- Chapter 8: Common Denominators ... and Adding and Subtracting Fractions
Chapter 9: Complex Fractions
- Quiz #2: Do You Have Trouble Focusing -- or Are You a Focus Superstar?
Chapter 10: All About Decimals
- Chapter 11: Converting Fractions and Mixed Numbers to Decimals
Chapter 12: Converting Decimals to Fractions
- Chapter 13: Converting Percents to and From Decimals and Fractions
Chapter 14: Mixing Fractions, Decimals and Percents
- Chapter 15: Word Problems
Chapter 16: Ratios
Chapter 17: Rates
Chapter 18: Proportions
Chapter 19: Unit Conversions
- Quiz #3: What's Your Learning Style?
Chapter 20: Introduction to "Solving for x"
Chapter 21: "Solving for x" in Word Problems
Guide Review - Book Review: Math Doesn't Suck
When I showed my daughter this book, she read the title and said, "Yes, it does!"
I had her read a few chapters, and she was actually surprised by how much she enjoyed and understood the material. Not enough to want to read the whole thing -- reading is even more of a problem for her than math -- but enough to confirm my impression that Math Doesn't Suck is an excellent resource for students with learning disabilities.
Of course, if your child is a non-reader like mine, you may be best off reading it yourself and adapting the ideas to your homework helping time. Ditto if your child is a boy -- the techniques and strategies here are great, but they are very girly girly, heavy on makeup and shopping for word-problem examples. And double ditto if you're uncomfortable with the title, and would prefer not to endorse such language by presenting your child with a book that uses it lightly.
Still, you'd be wrong to let the title turn you off, or the cutesy quizzes, or the stereotyped girly stuff, or the fact that it's written by an actress. There is absolutely solid math advice here, offered in a way that's accessible to kids and ideally suited to students with learning disabilities. Whimsical illustrations, hand-written problems, mnemonics, step-by-step examples, and a few test items for reinforcement make complicated concepts seem down-to-earth and do-able.
In addition to the no-sweat explanations of fractions and decimals and factors and percents, there's also lots big-sisterly advice about test anxiety, learning styles, homework, and finding confidence through academics. The text is scattered with stories from McKellar's personal life, profiles of successful women who overcame their own math weaknesses -- and a fair amount of silly quizzes and nonsense. If it lowers kids' defenses to let learning through, so be it.