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Hard Math for Elementary School Paperback – May 29, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Does math class make your child feel like a hamster in a cage stuck in a wheel of an endlessly repetitive "spiral curriculum" with little to challenge or inspire her? If you answered yes, then this book could provide a much-needed breath of fresh air. ... Written in a good-natured conversational style, Hard Math for Elementary School lays the foundation for elementary school students to develop the tools and habits of confident, capable, and curious problem solvers."
--Mary O'Keeffe, founder, Albany Area Math Circle


"The author has excellent taste ...  The book is full of great insights and tricks which would make even a professional mathematician smile. ... I wish that the book would replace all other books currently used to teach math to elementary school kids."
-- Richard Schwartz, Chancellor's Professor of Mathematics, Brown University. Author, You Can Count on Monsters and Really Big Numbers


"... well written based on Prof. Ellison's invaluable experience teaching and achieving wonderful results in every single stage: elementary school, middle school, and high school."
-- Zuming Feng, Coach and Team Leader, U.S. International Math Olympiad Team. Founder, Idea Math.

About the Author

Glenn Ellison is the Gregory K. Palm Professor of Economics at MIT. He is also the parent of three daughters and has spent many hours coaching middle school math teams and working with informal groups of younger and older kids in his kitchen classroom.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 4/29/13 edition (May 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1489507175
  • ISBN-13: 978-1489507174
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I was lucky to have access to this book in manuscript form, and I used this book as basis of discussion for an after-school "Challenge Math" class at a local public elementary school. We had kids from grades 3 - 5.

I can not go far enough in complimenting the book. It introduces very challenging and interesting material in a fun way. What I like about the textbook is that it really expands the kids' understanding of what one can do with math. (It is not uncommon for kids to say "Wow" once they understood an especially cool concept). For example, one of my favorite chapters in the book is on "base 8" or how the number system would look like if we counted by eights instead of tens. The book refers to this as Bart Simpsons' world since the Simpson characters have four fingers only. This material is usually not covered in school curriculum. Introducing this to relatively young kids fulfills many functions: 1) it is pretty cool in a mind-blowing sort of way, 2) it forces kids to be flexible in their thinking, and 3) it makes them realize that math requires deep thinking and not just memorization. The fact that the author is able to explain this sort of material to young kids is amazing, but it really does work.

The textbook also comes with a workbook - Hard Math for Elementary School: Workbook - which has a bunch of challenging and fun problems. The problems are leveled -- the first few are relatively easy to do if the student understood the basic concept, but the problems get very challenging in the end. I would highly recommend the workbook. What I typically did was explain a small section of a chapter and then had the students do a worksheet.
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My husband and I are professionals (engineer and attorney) and did not feel like our daughter was being challenged enough in math at school. She was tested for gifted, however, the teachers were still not supplementing her enough. She is currently in 3rd grade. We bought this series to work at home in addition to school work and it is EXCELLENT. She is very proud to show her friends her "Hard Math". Parents and teachers who have seen the textbook think it is too "hard", but that is exactly why we like it. We only spend 1 to 2 hours a week on the book and we are going at a nice pace. Highly recommend it if you want something more to work on with your kids.
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I bought this book for a second to third grader who wasn't being challenged enough by math at school. This book is excellent and covers topics that wouldn't be covered at school (either ever or until much later). I actually like the title, because it just challenges the kids and gives them real joy when they're able to figure it out while not disappointing them if they're not able to.

That has all been said by other reviewers but the reason why I felt compelled to write a review was my experience with the chapter on "base 8" arithmetic. I have some background in computer science and am very familiar with a binary system (base 2). I (and possibly the kid as well) absolutely loved the chapter - both from a mathematical as well as a sociological perspective (different people can talk and think differently based on their unique cultural experiences). However, there was one unintended consequence. The chapter uses Simpsons as an example of a society that might use a base 8. At which I felt obligated (encouraged by endless stream of "pleases") to introduce my kid to the Simpsons show. Not a wise parenting decision :-). I hadn't watched much of the show myself and even shows I watched before feel very different to me now as a parent. Simpsons is not an appropriate show for an 8 year old (or even a 10 year old for that matter). So, if you are in a similar situation I would recommend you to skip that chapter until the end of the book. Even from a complexity of concept perspective, I think it belongs much later in the book.

Having said that I must say that I truly am grateful for Glenn Ellison to have taken the time to put this book together. Chances are that any money he's making from this book is not commensurate with the value of his time. However, Glenn you do have a bunch of indebted parents.
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By Homechef on November 11, 2014
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The title "Fun hard math" would be less forbidding and yet completely true. I give the workbook pages to the kids, let them struggle with the problems a bit (most of the problems we've run into so far are brute-foreceable), then see how the problems are easier and more fun with a little bit of mathematical thinking by introducing them to the text. It's a bit backwards, but the kids seem to be enjoying themselves.
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I teach a a small group of highly gifted third grade math students for one hour a week using this set of books. I use the main book for my lessons and other book for student problem solving. The point is that a teacher can use this set. I wish Glenn Ellison would publish a similar three book format for upper elementary. I really need one for my 5th/6th graders. Most other challenge math books are written for independent study. I have to do all sorts of cutting gluing and copying to make these books work in the gifted elementary classroom.
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