Best of Times: Maths Strategy

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Greg Tang was tutoring math in his daughter's class when he noticed
something interesting about the dominoes they were using. Each
white dot had a pencil mark on it, which meant the children had
been counting them one at a time. Mr. Tang taught them to look for
patterns instead, and to add and subtract groups of dots in order
to calculate the dominoes' value quickly. From there, he developed
a new method of teaching arithmetic in a visual and spontaneous
way. His method teaches both computational and problem-solving
skills, and is so fun and challenging that children forget they are
learning math! He believes that all kids are capable of doing well
in math, and he has a mission to make math a natural part of every
child's life. He has successfully taught his method to children
from ages five to ten.*Grapes of Math* and *Math for All
Seasons* are part of a series of books that will help children
gain the range of skills needed for higher math. His books
challenge and encourage children to use creativity and common sense
to solve problems, rather than formulas and memorization.Greg Tang
has an impressive mathematics background. He earned his B.A. and
M.A. degrees in economics from Harvard, and he also holds an M.A.
degree in Math Education from New York University. He has applied
his problem-solving methods in building successful companies and
products in a variety of industries. Greg Tang currently lives in
Belmont, Massachusetts, with his family.

This upbeat picture book, presenting multiplication using numbers from zero through ten, is illustrated with often humorous pictures of animals engaged in activities such as fishing, painting, dancing. For every factor in the times table, Tang supplies a mnemonic rhyme, such as Six is pretty quick to do, / just multiply by 3 then 2. / If this sounds like too much trouble, / triple first before you double! and Seven doesn't take much time, / even though it is a prime. / Here is all you have to do, / first times 5 then add times 2! For the many people wondering if it isn't easier to memorize the times tables, Tang notes, Instead, wouldn't it be great if by understanding math better you could learn to multiply numbers of any size, not just the ones you memorize? Along the way, his playful juggling of numbers and the clearly laid out equations and visual explanations may help children learn to calculate more easily in their heads, see the patterns implied, and understand what they are doing when they multiply numbers. Encouraging rhymes and colorful, jaunty illustrations bolster the multiplication lesson.--Booklist, November 1st, 2002 A multiplication book that really adds up. Snappy rhymes and problems to solve, going from 0 to 10, with one number per spread, offer valuable strategies that will help develop number sense. However, some terms, such as thrice and precise, might require a bit of clarification. Prime is mentioned in relation to the number seven but not defined and not necessary for the strategy given. Briggs's humorous cartoon illustrations in bold, flat colors add to the book's appeal. Overall, this title would enhance math units and would be a fun read-aloud.--School Library Journal, September 2002The team behind The Grapes of Math and Math for All Seasons follows up with a third title for aspiring mathematicians: The Best of Times: Math Strategies That Multiply by Greg Tang, illus. by Harry Briggs. Tang eschews multiplication tables in favor of emphasizing a better understanding of numbers and quantities. Bouncy, rhyming ditties remind kids, among other things, that 0 times anything is zero (For every problem it's the same, / zilch or zero is its name!) Briggs's cheery signature artwork, featuring an active menagerie, keeps the concepts clear and the mood light.--Publishers Weekly, August 19th 2002Tang would like to take the memorization out of the multiplication tables and insert some understanding. Play with the numbers, he suggests, get to know them and their relationships; use a little common sense. Here, critters of all stripes break the tables down into more digestible bits. Set in splashy, saturated color, zippy little quatrains introduce each table and explain his approach: Two is very fast and fun, / quickly double and you're done. / What's that you say, be more precise? / Okay then, just add it twice. When the tack taken is straightforward and simple enough, it reveals the workings of multiplication, as when the fours tables are understood as doubled twice, or the fives tables as half of the tens. Sometimes, though, things can get a little unwieldy: Seven doesn't take much time, / even though it is a prime. / Here is all you have to do, / first times 5 then add times 2. That's a lot to keep in your head, and memorization may seem less trouble. But Tang's hope is that through these math autopsies, readers will grasp the mechanics at work and bury their math anxieties.--Kirkus Reviews, July 15th 2002

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