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Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 108.  Today we are looking at Creating More Wonder, Joy, & Beauty in Mathematics.

Welcome to Build Math Minds the podcast, where fidelity to your students is greater than fidelity to your textbook. I’m your host, Christina Tondevold, the recovering traditionalist and Founder, where my mission is to change the way we teach elementary math to our kiddos. Are you ready to start building math minds and not just creating calculators? Let’s get started.

We are wrapping up the 2021 Virtual Math Summit here.  In fact, the day this podcast gets released is the last day of free access to all the sessions.  After today they are only available inside the Build Math Minds PD site for members to watch.  One benefit members get is access to a session I did only for BMM members and VIP attendees of the summit, but on today’s podcast you are getting a snippet from that session that I hope inspires you to create more wonder, joy, and beauty in mathematics.

Those three words are typically not associated with math, they are more associated with reading.  In fact when you search ‘READING’ and look at the images that come up you see people and kids full of wonder and joy as they read and the beautiful experience that it is.

But when you search ‘DOING MATH’ the images that come up show people struggling, frustrated, doing worksheets…basically no joy, wonder, or anything beautiful about what they are doing.

So how do we change that?  Well, we can’t change the images that come up but we can change the types of experiences that students have in order to help them see math can be just as wonderful, joyful, and beautiful as reading.

Here’s my 3 ways that reading creates that wonder, joy, and beauty that we typically don’t do in math:

“All right, so let’s get into how we change these pictures and how we can help create pictures like the reading pictures and have that for mathematics. One of the big things, the reasons why we have that wonder, joy and beauty when we read, is that reading connects to our lives. And it exposes us to things that we don’t normally see in our life. 

We enjoy reading a book because it validates us sometimes. We’re like, oh my gosh, that is just like me. And then, other times we really enjoy reading because it exposes us to things that we have never been exposed to and we probably never will. It opens up our world in lots of ways. Another thing that reading has, that mathematics tends not to have, is that reading has a sense of the unknown. It has that unpredictability. We don’t know what’s coming next. Thus, it makes us engage with it. Like how many times have you read a book and been like, I don’t wanna put this down, right. 

I like to read, I don’t read as much anymore that like, just for fun. I read a lot of research, I read a lot of education books, but reading for fun has kind of gone by the wayside from having four kids and everything else that goes with it. But I distinctly remember. “Harry Potter” Right and anybody else, big. “Harry Potter” Fans and my kids now, my own personal kids have been reading. “Harry Potter” And my daughter recently finished the fourth book. And so she started the fifth book and I was like, oh man, Sierra, I remember waiting and waiting. Like when we finished the fourth book, the fifth book wasn’t out, you could not get those books. You had to wait and just the anticipation of waiting and then once you got the book, like I, those books are huge. And I spent an entire weekend just reading that book, when it came out, because I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. 

With mathematics, our kids don’t have that. That’s one of the things that I personally always liked about mathematics, was that it was very predictable. If I do this, this, and then this, I know what the end result is going to be. But yet that doesn’t create this wonder, right. Like I wonder if this is gonna work, we don’t get that in mathematics. And so that’s one of the big reasons why. 

So another big thing that reading does, that mathematics hasn’t, is that as we read, we create visuals. We have this picture that gets created in our minds. Another one that I will never forget, is I used to read the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. And there’s a very, I don’t know what the right word to use here, but there was a character, there is a character named Ranger, and he was, you just built this picture in your mind of Ranger. And when it came out that they were gonna create this book into a movie, there was lots of discussion about who they were gonna cast as Ranger. And I thought, for sure, it should be Dwayne Johnson, The Rock, like that should be Ranger. That is the picture I had in my mind of Ranger. And when the movie came out, it was not The Rock. And I was severely disappointed, because I have this visual in mind and the same thing held true even with the. “Harry Potter” Books. Any movie that gets created from a book, people are always like, that’s not what I pictured in my mind, but in mathematics, we don’t tend to do that. 

We don’t create visuals as we math, right? It is all about that abstract piece. Every single one of those pictures there that you see is, except for one, I see one there with a kid with his fingers up and the Abacus in front of him, everything else is the rote things. Whether it’s on a calculator, the symbols, a worksheet, all of it is not visual for our students, okay. So that’s what we’re gonna be talking about as we go through, is how do we actually do those three things?” 

In the rest of the session, I discuss ways we can do those three things in mathematics.  Again, this is only available inside the Build Math Minds PD site, so if you aren’t a member go to to enroll so you can watch the full session.  Members can find this session inside the 2021 Virtual Math Summit area of the site.

If you can’t enroll now, I hope this podcast episode has given you some things to think about and as you start planning for this upcoming year look for ways to make mathematics more unknown, help kids see themselves in math and expose them to situations/problems they may not be exposed to in their lives, and make math more visual for your kiddos.

This episode is brought to you by the Build Math Minds Professional Development site. It’s an online site full of PD videos designed specifically for elementary teachers to help you build your math mind so you can build the math minds of your students. If you are interested in getting in depth math PD at your fingertips become a member of Build Math Minds. Just go to Depending upon when you’re listening to this, enrollment might be open or you can join the wait list and get notified when it opens again.

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.