Marilyn Burns

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Burns is also an author, speaker, educational trainer, publisher and founder of Math Solutions.  You can read my review of one of her Math books for children, The Greedy Triangle (Scholastic Bookshelf)

When I accepted my first job as a middle school teacher back in 2002, I had to breathe into a paper bag for at least 5 minutes after learning the subject I was to teach was MATH. 

I was horrible at Math.  I was the kid who had to sit inside at Recess, looking longingly out the window at the playground and all my friends playing a brutal game of dodge ball, to memorize my multiplication tables, flash card by boring flash card.   If only multiplication.com was around then! Sheesh!

I was also the kid who spent Summers retaking math classes and then in college, had to take a zero credit math class (twice!) in order to qualify for the required math classes I had to take.

Getting hired as a math teacher was one of the most surprising things that has ever happened to me.  In the course of that year, having to pour through the teacher editions and quality books every day to stay ahead of my students, I realized I wasn't horrible at math!  I understood it better than I ever realized.  In fact, It seemed that I could accurately discern how to teach the students certain math concepts, simply because I had struggled through it myself. I realize now that I had gotten lost early on in my Math journey as a student, and then never quite recovered.  My feelings of failure with math were instrumental in my math confusion later on.  Thinking on this some more, I think that if I had had more experience figuring math out by talking and writing about math and using manipulatives to aid in my figuring, it would have made a world of difference.

Enter Marilyn Burns:  She has changed mathematics for students everywhere with her open-ended, critical thinking approach. It is downright refreshing.  She encourages students to talk about math, write about math, and explore math.  You won't find worksheet after worksheet of addition problem after addition problem in her books. 

One particular book intrigued me that first year of teaching:  50 Problem-Solving Lessons for Grades 1-6 by Marilyn Burns.  It is a book that absolutely floored me and what I thought I knew about math and teaching it.  It empowered me to be a better teacher. 

In this book, you will find lessons which span a few to several grade levels at once, making this ideal for homeschool families and multi-level classrooms.  These lessons will teach number sense, geometry, measurement, statistics, probability, patterns and functions, algebra, and logic.  And get this:  They are fun!!! 

Check out my two daughters completing one of her lessons, "Roll to $1.00" here.

Burns is also very good at showing examples of students' work, and the different ways of analyzing the problem solving lessons.  Imagine asking your students to explore all the different ways to cut a piece of cake into fourths, using 8.5X11" pieces of paper. 

Or what if you allowed students to create their own ways of dividing to solve a problem? 

I like the lesson that has children calculate the number of floor tiles that would be needed to re-tile the classroom floor. 

All of Burns' lessons are hands-on, fun and require students to use critical thinking.  Learning is solidified when they are expected to explain their answers and how they got them in fun and relaxed ways. 

If you are concerned that math be fun for your children or students, or if you would like to understand how to teach math in an exciting and refreshing way, get 50 Problem Solving Lessons