An engaging story, a rollicking rhyme, a riddle in a poem, a basic concept of mathematics…. WAIT. Stop right there. We all love the joys of literature: a good story, a bouncy rhyme. But polygons? Computation? FRACTIONS? MW Penn is an award winning author and poet, and also a mathematician who designed software systems for AT&T, the University of Florida and the FDA. Now she writes children’s books centered on basic concepts of mathematics with titles such as Square Bear, a fairy tale of polygons; Sidney the Silly Who Only Eats 6, an award winning story of number comparison; Peter Pattern, who explores pattern and order; and the Capstone series, Pebble Math.
Peter Pattern Teaches Children to Recognize and Mimic Pattern
That’s not a Beagle, a Silly Study of Attributes
Square Bear and his Friends Teach Us All about Polygons
Read a Story in Rhyme and Compare Numbers with Sidney the Silly Who Only Eats 6
Working with professors of mathematics education, Penn has also co-authored a teachers’ guide to interdisciplinary lesson plans, Children’s Literature in the K-3 Mathematics Classroom; and A Comprehensive Mathematics Dictionary for Grades K-8. She also authored an award winning young adult novel, The Pe`lerin of the Orb, a medieval tale of mayhem, mysticism and mathematics (2013 CT Press Club Communication Award for best YA novel and a National Federation of Press Women award the same year).
The late Dr. Edward Zigler, founder of the Zigler Institute for Child Development at Yale University, the ‘father’ of the Head Start program, said of her work, “Penn’s creative use of rhyme and number is a model of how to help the young child begin the demanding tasks of mastering literacy and numeracy.” Penn’s sessions on incorporating children’s literature into the mathematics classroom have been included in the programs of annual conferences of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Yet her poems often appear in the magazine Highlights for Children, and her poetry was featured in the Highlights booth at an International Readers’ Association annual conference. Convincing evidence that children can enjoy an engaging story, the intricacies of rhyme and bouncy meter and, at the same time, learn a basic concept of mathematics. Come along, read a story or discuss the craft of writing poetry, but also learn about number and pattern and order. What we call mathematics.