Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late by Laura Overdeck, by James Tooley. New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2013. 96 pp. $15.99 (hardcover).
In “A Dozen Great Apps for Children Learning Math” (TOS, Winter 2015–16), I discussed some excellent high-tech tools for learning math. But sometimes old-fashioned, low-tech tools can’t be beat. A book called Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late is one such case.
The book, written by Laura Overdeck and playfully illustrated by Jim Paillot, includes chapters on exploding food, wild pets, extreme vehicles, sports not to try at home, and really odd jobs. Each chapter presents several stories, each a paragraph long. And each chapter, story, and paragraph is interesting. This is the key to the power of this book. It is interesting through and through. It shares interesting facts about interesting things in interesting ways.
Here, for example, is a story titled “Just in Slime,” from the chapter on wild pets:
With their bulging eyes, long sticky tongues, wet skin, and incredible jumping power, frogs offer a great combination of slimy and cute. They’re amphibians, meaning they can live both in water and on land; in fact, they’re born in the water as wriggling tadpoles, then eventually lose their tails and grow those great jumpy legs. You can actually eat frogs’ legs, but more often people prefer to keep frogs as pets. But whether you want a frog as your friend or your dinner, you have to catch it first, and that’s slippery business. (p. 34)
Three questions follow each short story: one for “wee ones,” one for “little kids,” and one for “big kids.” For example, following the aforementioned paragraph are these three questions:
Wee ones: You’re stuck chasing your 3 pet frogs. If the first does 3 jumps, the second does 4 jumps, and the third does 1 jump, how many jumps do they all do before you catch them?
Little kids: Frogs also swim well. If you chase your pet frog and it jumps for 7 feet, then dives into the pool and swims for 12 feet, how many feet did it travel?
Big kids: The Australian rocket frog can jump about 50 times its body length. If the frog is 2 inches long, how many inches can it jump? (p. 35)
The answers appear unobtrusively (and upside down) in the lower right-hand corner of the page. At the end of the book, Overdeck includes a page with the title of each topic and the math equations that underlie each problem. For example, the equations for the foregoing are given as: “3 + 4 + 1 = 8,” “7 + 12 = 19,” and “50 x 2 = 100.”
The goal of the book, as Overdeck explains in the prologue, is “to have an entertaining conversation that leads to the answer, not to see if your kid gets the answer right off the bat.” This is a great way to make math fun—not only for children but also for their parents.
My family and I love this book, including the two that follow it in the series. And—wouldn’t you know it?—Bedtime Math has an app. You can download it for free on Apple or on Android. But I highly recommend the books, as they include the best of the stories and are beautifully illustrated.