My Math “origin” Story…

In our house we are big Super Hero fans. In the hero world, characters have back stories – or “origin” stories. Honestly EVERYONE has an “Origin Story” These are the events that shape you into the person you are.

September 25th is Math Storytelling Day, so here is my MATH origin story….

Math is one of the subjects it seems learners either love or run from screaming… I was the kid that ran screaming! Now as an adult I don’t know why. I can’t pinpoint when I began to dislike Math. Looking back, and with over 25 years in education I believe I was ALLOWED to have that attitude. Those that loved me just “accepted” I wasn’t good at Math, and I was strong in Language Arts, and moved on. I spent my entire education avoiding Math. Can you IMAGINE my reaction when I was presented my first teaching contract for 4th grade and told there was a separate Math teacher? When I taught public school I got by for 1 year, then I rallied the other 4th grade teachers and we departmentalized. Guess who DIDN’T teach Math again! (YOU GUESSED IT!)

When I was presenting Math to my children I was very careful with my attitude. Attitude is everything. I presented the “Problems” as opportunities. We didn’t solve Word Problems, for example – we solve Math Mysteries! When it was time for Math performed OPERATIONS. If you would like to see more about the powerful use of word choice I have a post about it HERE.

When the outgrew Momma, I purchased an online teaching curriculum and off they went!

It took until I was 40 – yes 40 to find my comfort and dare I even say… Love of Math. I finally was in a job setting where I was not able to run screaming from Math any longer. I was 100% THE 4th grade Math teacher. At the school in which I accepted the position was a wonderful friend, who had, in the past been the 4th grade Math teacher, and happened to love Math. No matter how many times I interrupted what she was doing, she patiently explained whatever I needed, when I needed it – sometimes coming to my classroom to be the “guest teacher” if time permitted. She would also come after school to tutor me so I’d be prepared to teach the next day, patiently and lovingly explaining to a 40 year old woman, 4th grade Math as if there wasn’t anything “wrong” with the situation. I was finally ready to learn Math.

WHAT AN EXAMPLE that class saw. They saw their 40 year old teacher admit when she needed help, and their former 1st grade teacher come to the rescue! I learned my multiplication tables right with them. They always won. I will never be faster than a 4th grader, and that’s OK. I know them now.

Math Storytelling Day is a day designed to get people talking about Math in a positive way – to help that “run screaming” attitude.  It’s funny, I actually met someone BRILLIANT off the charts in math who runs screaming from Language Arts. It was truly an “Ah-ha” moment for me. Just as I was pushed through the education system for being a strong reader and my Math skills slipped further and further… this learner slipped through due to his excellent Math skills. I’m not blaming anyone, or even the system. Kids are crafty little cutie-pies and boy they come up with all sorts of cover ups to avoid the dreaded (Insert pepto – bismol subject here). 

While I will never love Math in the way I love Reading, I do wish I had had someone inspire me earlier than 40 so my education would have been more balanced and that fear would not have grown and grown. 

Math Storytelling day is a day to help bring balance into the lives of our learners. It’s the best of BOTH worlds… MATH and STORY. At the very least… SHARE YOUR MATH JOURNEY with the learners in your life… love math or run screaming…. Your HONEST reflection will impact those around you and it just may make a difference. 

I hope you will celebrate today in the most amazing Mathematical ways… 


Play a game ( Monopoly, Rack-O, TriOminos, Memory…) 


Pattern Blocks, regular blocks, Legos


Cut things into Fractions

Or you can use the old stand by… Roll in the TV and VCR and put on Good ‘ole Donald in Math Magic Land!  Oh wait – now we have YouTube. I actually watched this on – GASP – film!!!! (Yup, I’m THAT old!) 

This Classic answers the Age old question about how Math is used “in real life”.

Mrs. Crabtree’s first experience with MathMagic land was on a reel-to-reel movie projector in a classroom in the late 1970’s. It is a FAVORITE of mine to show any learners I can!

I personally love when Math and Language Arts mix. Take for example, Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol. This detective is often solving cases using the same critical thinking skills it takes to perform math operations. The books also follow a somewhat predictable format and encourage critical thinking in the reader. The reader is often able to figure out the mystery as well. There are 10 mysteries in each book.

Looking for a good Encyclopedia Brown book? They are all self contained. I suggest: Encyclopedia Brown Solves them all, The case of the Two-Dollar Bill.

Some of my other Math Favorites:

The Grapes of Math

Penrose the Mathematical Cat

Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School

Today is all about kids creating their OWN math stories. They don’t have to write a complete work of literature, but how about these ideas:

Write a set of Math Mysteries (Word Problems) for a sibling or friend to solve

Write a math related children’s story (counting, shapes, mini math mysteries)

I hope you will consider using our MATH MYSTERIES in your lessons this year. They are not a complete full year curriculum, but instead designed to help introduce the language of Math, and how to use your super sleuth powers to solve the operations!

Click the image to purchase Math Mysteries on Amped Up Learning. $1.25

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With Love,

“Mrs. Crabtree”

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