Last week Laura Overdeck visited with the Bedtime Math group at the Windham Public Library. The invitation only potluck dinner was in honor of Overdeck who is the creator of Bedtime Math, a national program that takes the scary out of math and makes it fun.
“This was a blog that turned into a fairy tale,” said Overdeck. “Kids aren’t afraid of math until we make them afraid of math.”
Overdeck an astrophysicist by education, started to do a math problem with her child every night before bed. “We’d read a book then do a math problem. When the third one turned two he wanted his own math problem,” she said. Her friends encouraged her to write the problems down, that was in 2012. It started with 10 friends, and their kids bugging them to give them math problems. By May of 2014, 40,000 kids had participated in Bedtime Math. It hasn’t been quite a year and already the program is a reaching into homes, transforming how children and adults think of math.
Bedtime Math consists for one problem written for four different levels – Wee ones, little kids, big kids and sky’s the limit. Each problem is pulled out of real life, from viral videos, which are great for math, Overdeck said. “Those things write themselves. These things all have numbers behind them.”
Overdeck uses her children and their friends to test out the activities. “The kids come over and ask, ‘What are we throwing today?’.”
Windham Public Library, under the direction of Laurel Parker, started a Crazy 8s Math Club. It was one of the first clubs and still has the distinction of being beta testers for Overdeck and the program. “They’ve been the trailblazing group,” she said. “Laurel has been just great.”
Although Overdeck and Parker have corresponded frequently, they had never met until Wednesday.
Over the last two years, the Windham group has been sending feedback and new problems to Overdeck. “We felt our feedback had been really listened to,” said Catherine Miller, the library’s new coach of the Crazy 8s.
“We have a good connection,” said Parker. “We’re on the cusp of piloting things.”
“Everyone looks out for the younger ones,” she said, as the kids made paper airplanes at Wednesday night’s dinner. The parties at the library were pajama parties and they did activities like giant tangrams and giant clocks.
Bedtime sends a kit filled with everything they need to do to fill the hour from tape measures to paper for the airplanes. Usually there is more to do then time to do it. The clubs have the responsibility to find a coach. There are two levels, kindergarten to second grade and third to fifth grades. They are identical kids, but the questions are different.
When asked what her favorite activity at the library’s Crazy 8s club has been, Ally Miller replied, “How am I supposed to choose?”
When the program started, they called Parker because of her role as the chair of the youth services section of the Maine Library Association. “Bedtime Math called me to see if I would promote the idea of a program in a pack. The whole thing has evolved,” said Parker. The club has 11 members and Miller and Parker are trying to get a younger group going. “It’s an interesting mix of kids. These are kids who would never be brought together otherwise,” Parker concluded.
“The whole concept is math is fun,” she said. No paper or pencils required.
Overdeck also has Bedtime Math books. Each one sold helps the non-profit foundation continue.
“I’d love to see where these kids are 10 years down the road,” said Parker.
“We want to keep it going so they already love [math]. When it becomes challenging they will love it and embrace it,” Overdeck said. “Everything has a size, shape and speed. It’s fascinating when we really stop to look at it.”
After dinner and two new activities for the children, Overdeck headed to Augusta to speak at the Barbara Bush Conference in Augusta.
For more about Bedtime Math or for the daily math problem, visit www.bedtimemath.org. To get involved in a Bedtime Math Crazy 8s Club, call the library at 892-1908.