Hi math is everywhere readers,
There’s a new holiday in town: International Day of Mathematics! It’s probably going to become my favorite holiday.
The International Day of Mathematics (IDM) is a worldwide celebration. Each year on March 14 all countries will be invited to participate through activities for both students and the general public in schools, museums, libraries and other spaces.
The International Day of Mathematics was proclaimed by UNESCO on the 40th session of the General Conference, November 26, 2019. So this is it’s very first year! https://www.idm314.org/
To celebrate the inception of such a cool holiday, we have an extra special guest. She is someone who discovered her love of math later in life and is here to talk about that and her journey to publication, which includes one of my favorite picture books, I’m Trying to Love Math. It’s the lovely Bethany Barton!
Kaitlyn: Thanks so much for joining us today, Bethany!
Bethany: Thanks for having me! This is rad.
Kaitlyn: Almost as rad as you are, my friend! First off, we have to hear your story of discovering how you’re learning to love math.
Bethany: Oh! Well, I’m a visual storyteller across several mediums. I make books, as well as work in film & TV. The books I make ask kids to face their fears using superpowers like facts, humor and empathy. My first few books in this series asked kids to get to know bees and spiders. For this third book, I went for something a little different– MATH! Math is scary to so many kids and grown-ups, and I wanted to challenge that. My husband is finishing up his masters in physics, so I like to show kids at my book events that for him, a math equation is as fun as a pizza and ice cream party. And I’m telling the truth! He LOVES it! I wanted to learn to love it in the same way.
To be honest, I wasn’t super pumped about math when I started writing I’m Trying To Love Math. I didn’t actively dislike math, but it wasn’t my thing. But then I worked with an incredible teacher (YAY ERICH PATRICK ENKE!) and he showed me that math is a creative process, which really perked my interest. He also introduced me to the work of Margaret Wertheim, who has a quote that I just adore: “Mathematics, in a sense, is logic set loose in a field of imagination.”
Kaitlyn: Now that you’re starting to love math, can you share with us one of your favorite things about math and why you like it?
Bethany: The more I learn about math, the more I think of it as a problem-solving language. I love creative problem-solving, and mathematics gives me a universal language to do it in.
Kaitlyn: Yes! I totally agree! That’s such a beautiful way to look at math. You have such a cool story that lead you to writing and illustrating books, can you share it with us?
Bethany: Oh! Well, you know how Pete The Cat accidentally stepped into a bunch of stuff and ended up with cool shoes? That’s kind of my publishing story! Haha
More specifically, I was working in film/TV, and while I was having fun bringing other people’s stories to life, I wanted to start sharing some of my own. So I started a blog of writing and illustration. Through a series of connected friends and their relatives, my blog got in front of an agent at Writers House (YAY STEPHEN BARR!) and he suggested I turn my illustrated creatures and their insecurities into a picture book. That gave life to Stewart the Monster, This Monster Needs A Haircut (Dial, 2012) and This Monster Cannot Wait (Dial 2013.)
Kaitlyn: That’s amazing! And I loved the analogy with Pete The Cat! Everyone’s journey is different, do you have any advice to share with authors and/or illustrators?
Bethany: Wake Up and Make Stuff. That’s my mantra for all artists in every field. You learn your craft by making and making and making and creating and creating and making some more. Make terrible stories and embarrassing art. Make LOTS of terrible stories and bad art. Literally try to make the worst thing you can, and then ask yourself what made it bad. Do exercises where you write a short story or create an illustration in the style of another author/illustrator you admire. Malcom Gladwell says it take 10,000 hours to become a master/expert in your field. There’s no shortcut to that. You can be instantly famous, sure, but you can’t be a master at your craft if you’ve only made one good book.
Kaitlyn: Such amazing advice. No wonder you do so well! What’s next for you? Do you have other books in the works?
Bethany: My next book in the “Trying To Love…” series comes out in July! It’s I’m Trying To Love ROCKS! It’s an exploration of boredom (why do I want to learn about rocks? Sounds booooring…) that explores geology (which, it turns out, is super not boring!)
I’m also working on two more follow-up books for that series, as well as an illustrated middle grade that I have been working on for FAR TOO LONG. haha
Kaitlyn: I can’t wait to read all of these, and I agree, we went to a Rock and Gem show randomly one time and rocks are actually SUPER cool! Good luck on your MG! Finally, if you could hang out with your favorite writer or mathematician, would you chat over tea or go fly a kite?
Bethany: Definitely tea. I’m not a coffee person, so I drink a lot of tea.
Kaitlyn: Me too! Tea forever! It was such a pleasure having you Bethany. Thanks for celebrating the inception of the newest math holiday with us. I hope you have a great International Day of Mathematics on March 14!
Bethany: Me too! I’m sure it will be a blast! Thanks so much for having me!
Kaitlyn: Anytime! It’s always a hoot chatting with you, my friend!
Kaitlyn’s Review of I’m Trying to Love Math
I love the style of this book, how interactive, creative, and relatable it is. Author Bethany Barton starts by talking directly to the reader about how unlovable math seems. Then she uses math to support her point, something the friendly (and adorable) alien points out. Then even after learning one cool thing after another about math, she continues to believe math isn’t fun–a resistance many people in our society have even after learning that math can be fun. Finally, at the end, she realizes that math is a part of everything, especially things she thinks are fun.
As a math teacher, I really appreciate how well researched this is as well, hitting on the beauty of math in patterns and music as well as the concept that arithmetic is only a small part of math, not math itself. And as a parent, I adore the comedy and fun art! I hope this book helps inspire a whole new generation to love math even if their initial reaction is that it’s not lovable.
Check out Bethany’s website to order her books, like I’m Trying to Love Math, which was named an Amazon Best Nonfiction Children’s Book of 2019.
Bethany Barton is an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books. Her 2015 book I’m Trying To Love Spiders (Viking/Penguin) garnered numerous awards and starred reviews, including the 2016 Children’s Choice Award 3rd/4th Grade Book of The Year. Her 2017 book Give Bees A Chance (Viking/Penguin) was a 2017 SCIBA Award finalist, was listed in Scripps National Spelling Bee “Great Words, Great Works,” and was featured in the New York Times. Her latest book, I’m Trying to Love Math (Viking/Penguin), was named an Amazon Best Book of 2019. Her books have been translated into 4 languages. Her newest in the series, I’m Trying To Love Rocks (Viking/Penguin), will hit stores in June of 2020.
Bethany had generously offered to send a SIGNED copy of I’m Trying To Love Math to the winner of the giveaway, AND they get to pick another person/classroom/library (in the US) to send to!
How to get in on the Giveaway:
- Comment on this blog post
- Retweet the tweet about this post
- Order one or more of Bethany’s Books or do a library purchase request for any of her books that they don’t currently have and share in the comments.
If you want to celebrate the International Day of Mathematics with your community, check out how here: https://www.idm314.org/organize.html.
If you’re thinking, “I don’t have time,” check it out before saying that. There are some really cool ways to celebrate with almost no prep! Like,
An activity that invites a large group of participants to dance following some very simple rules. The dancing party behaves like the deterministic systems studied by Chaos Theory, a branch of mathematics.
Another way to celebrate math any day is to check out their website created for this year’s theme: Mathematics is Everywhere to find examples of places where you can find maths. https://everywhere.idm314.org/
Thank you all so much for getting psyched with us about the first annual International Day of Mathematics and talking math with the spectacular Bethany Barton!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez
PS. If you haven’t seen the giveaway for #SpringFlingKidlit, hop on the bandwagon and share with your friends!