I am creating a two-page newsletter, aimed at community college math students, which I'll be handing out to students, both at our Math Jam program these two weeks before the fall semester, and at the math lab during the semester.

I'm happy to share it with others. I hope to have one issue for each week of the fall semester, 15 to 17 issues. If you use it, you'll have to change the bits that refer to my college. And please include this line: "Math Mama is Sue VanHattum, who blogs at mathmamawrites.blogspot.com." My copy is two-column. You can see it

here. (Let me know if that link isn't enough to get you an editable copy.)

Like it? Please let me know.

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Math Mama’s Gazette

Issue Number 1, August 4, 2014

**Math
isn’t news, why a newspaper? **

Well, there’s
lots about math that’s news to most folks, and a gazette sounded fun. I’m all
about fun, so I decided to go for it.

This first
issue and the next few will have lots of ideas (some surprising) about how people
learn math. If you’ve never enjoyed math, or never done very well with it, try
changing your perspective with some of these tips. You might like the results.

Every issue
will include a not-so-traditional *advice* column, a *puzzle*,
and a *comic*, newspaper favorites. There will also be *links*
to cool math stuff online.

**A Few Math Myths **

**Myth #1:** Learning math is learning how to follow procedures -
there's a lot to memorize.

**Myth #2:** Some people have a 'math mind' and some don't. (A more unfortunate
variant of this is: Men are better at math than women.)

**Myth #3:** Math requires simple logic; intuition and creativity have
no place.

**Myth #4:** There is one right way to do math problems.

**Myth #5:** I don’t need to know math - I’ve got my calculator and the
Internet.

**Myth #6:** Mathematicians do problems quickly, in their heads, by
working alone until the problem is solved.

In this issue,
we’ll address myth number one. (Keep coming back for
more myth-busting.)

**What is
math? Is it procedures?**

Most people
think it’s adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing; knowing your times
tables; knowing how to divide fractions; knowing how to follow the rules to
find the answer. These bits are one
tiny corner of the world of math.

Math is seeing
patterns, solving puzzles, using logic, finding ways to connect disparate
ideas, and so much more. People who do math play with infinity, shapes, map
coloring, tiling, and probability; they analyze how things change over time, or
how one particular change will affect a whole system.

Math is about
concepts, connections, patterns. It can be a game, a language, an art form.
Everything is connected, often in surprising and beautiful ways.

**What do
you memorize?**

I
went into math because I have a bad memory. If I had trusted my memory to be up
to it, I think I would have gone into science.

[continued on back]

**Puzzle: Math
Without Words**

by James Tanton (jamestanton.com)

*Math Mama’s Advice*

**Dear Math
Mama**, I am
a math tutor at a small Los Angeles community college. The students I have who
need the most help are older women who are back in college, or here for the
first time, who have had unpleasant math experiences in their youth. Do you
have any ideas for us?

- Paula

**Dear Paula,** I had quite a few older
women in one class last fall, and I had them in mind as I thought about your
question.

First, I think it's
important to address their fears directly. I recommend *Managing the Mean Math Blues*, by Cheryl Ooten, or *Overcoming Math Anxiety*, by Sheila Tobias.
You can get used copies online for $3 or $4. My favorite site for that is
betterworldbooks.com.

I also recommend an audio
track I created, called Math Relax. It's a guided meditation to help people
overcome math anxiety. It works best if the student listens to it every night
for a few weeks. (Go to mathmamawrites.blogspot. com, and look on the
right-hand side for the Math Relax audio track. It’s free.)

I think helping them lead
from their strengths might be even more important, though. I try to help each
class become a community. Some groups take off with it, and others don't. The
older students know what they want, and are ready to go with it.

This particular class became
an amazing community. Most days they came in over an hour early (we were* ***so**
lucky the classroom was empty before their class!) and studied together. One of
the students led the group, and even though I like getting questions in class,
they felt freer to ask questions in their group. They were each determined to
‘get it’, and kept at it until they did.

I asked my students what
advice I might offer you, and they said that working together was key. They
said keeping each other going when it got tough was the most important thing
they did for each other.

If you tutor one-on-one,
you could still help this dynamic along by introducing the students to each
other. Have you heard that “the one doing the most work is the one doing the
most learning”? That would mean that you learn more from tutoring than they do
- unless you can get them helping each other.

Perhaps if you recommend
some of your favorite online resources for them to check out, they'll discover
things that excite them. Many of my students really like watching math videos.
Check out vihart.org, khanacademy.org, mathtv.com, or (my favorite)
jamestanton.com.

Good luck, and thanks for
writing.

- Math Mama

Have a question for *Math
Mama*? Deliver it to Sue VanHattum, in AA-210, and Math Mama will answer
it in the next issue!

**What do you memorize? **[continued from front]

But I figured there was no way I
could memorize all those bones and muscles, chemical reactions, and so on. So I stuck with math.

You need to
know your multiplication facts to be able to factor numbers and polynomials
smoothly. (If you don’t know them, there are easy ways to commit them to memory
now. Professor VanHattum has a handout on this.) You’ll want to know that the
x-axis is horizontal, and the y-axis is vertical, for algebra. And in trigonometry
you’ll need to memorize a few definitions. Most everything else is more about
understanding the connections than about memorizing.