The Two-Way
10:11 am
Tue July 31, 2012

Share Your Stories: Did You Do 'Bedtime Math' Or Something Like It?

Originally published on Wed August 1, 2012 7:14 am

Morning Edition catches up today with one New Jersey mom's way of teaching math to her children: bedtime problems "that soon became a beloved routine."

Laura Overdeck, as it says on her Bedtime Math website, "along with her husband, John, started giving math problems to their two older kids. ... [And] when their 2-year-old started hollering for his own math problem, they knew they were onto something."

Friends heard about it and started to ask Overdeck to email problems to them. Now, her website has more than 5,000 subscribers who get to see blog posts and suggested problems such as this one posted on Monday. It starts with a story about tortillas and ends with questions designed for three age groups:

"Wee ones (counting on fingers): If you and 2 friends each order 3 tortillas, how many tortillas come to your table?

"Little kids: If at lunchtime 10 customers order fajitas, and one order of fajitas comes with 3 tortillas, how many tortillas does El Machino have to make? Bonus: If the restaurant has enough dough for 24 tortillas, but half of it falls on the floor and only half goes into El Machino, how many tortillas does El Machino get to make?

"Big kids: If fajitas come with 3 tortillas, and El Machino makes a tortilla every 53 seconds, how many seconds did El Machino need to make the tortillas for your fajita? Bonus: If the restaurant serves 120 tortillas at lunchtime and starts the machine at 10:00 am, when will El Machino finish making them? (Hint: You'll have to divide by 60 to get an answer in minutes...so you might want to divide by 60 before multiplying.)"

Back in March, USA Today contributor Laura Vanderkam compared Overdeck's approach to reading a bedtime story and wrote that if you "show kids that puzzling through problems can be as cozy as reading Goodnight Moon ... they may never decide that math is no fun." In April, The New York Times' Motherlode blog also wrote about how Overdeck had linked the "treasured ritual" of a bedtime story to fostering a love for math.

Now, a bedtime story was a part of this blogger's youth many years ago (favorite book: Mr. Popper's Penguins). Math problems? No.

We wonder, though, if Two-Way readers have stories and tips to share. Do you, or did your parents, do anything like what Overdeck has started? If not in math, maybe in science, history or language?

Please share in the comments thread. We'll highlight some of the most interesting.

Update at 7 a.m. ET, Aug. 1. Many Readers Did Share:

Our thanks to all those who shared their tales, in this post's comments thread and on NPR's Facebook page. We've gathered some of them in a new post — From Our Readers: Lunchbox Lessons From Mom And Dad.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.