How Do We Make More “Math People”?


Common Core MathWe’ve heard it a number of times before. Americans rank low when it comes to math scores and numeracy. As a general rule, we are not “math people.”

This week the New York Times article “Why Do Americans Stink at Math” by Elizabeth Green explored how the U.S. has repeatedly tried and failed to implement more effective and innovative methods to teach math skills to American students.

Our most recent effort, the Common Core, is facing a great deal of push back from all sides. The Common Core’s math standards are incredibly ambitious. Instead of simply showing students methods to find a problem’s answer, they seek to allow students to visualize mathematical concepts in a meaningful way, setting them up to workout problems when they encounter them outside the classroom. However, the implementation has not been successful. Says Green,

With the Common Core, teachers are once more being asked to unlearn an old approach and learn an entirely new one, essentially on their own. Training is still weak and infrequent, and principals — who are no more skilled at math than their teachers — remain unprepared to offer support. Textbooks, once again, have received only surface adjustments, despite the shiny Common Core labels that decorate their covers.

Parents trying to help their kids with their math homework are even less prepared to tackle the Common Core. It’s no wonder then, that so many are pushing to repeal the Common Core in their states.

But many educators aren’t willing to throw in the towel on the Common Core just yet. In schools that have carefully adopted new math programs, both student achievement and teacher understanding of concepts have improved. Success does not come overnight and state assessments should not expect it to. But there is a better way to teach math, and we owe it to our students to do better.

Math educator and author Lisa Arias, remains enthusiastic about the scope of the new standards. “Instead of rote computation without representation,  the Common Core Mathematics initiative provides  students with the opportunity to synthesize mathematical operations through problem solving, comparing, modeling, explaining and decomposing.”

Arias’s new series of math books Got Math supports students learning various math concepts called out in the Common Core. By providing the visual elements that will help learners internalize these concepts, Arias believes more of her students will become “math people.”

Meet Rourke’s Designer: Renee Brady

Renee BradyGrowing up loving art and all things associated with it, I was always drawing, painting or designing something. After graduating high school, I went to the Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated with a B.F.A. in photography and graphic design. Shortly after graduation I got my job at Rourke, and 9 years later I’m still excited to go to work and see what the new day will bring.

STEM Jobs with the Environment_6-7I love how my role is redefined every day. There is always growth and change at Rourke while we tackle new and different projects. And as an artist, that’s what I enjoy. Whether working on a huge project (NGSS Resource Bins) or working on the interior of a book, I’m glad to be doing what I do, and I love the people I get to share my day with. I’m currently working on the STEM Jobs You’ll Love series. Incorporating all this series’s different features with a polished design that will appeal to young readers is hugely rewarding.

When not at work, you can find me with my family out enjoying the sunshine on a boat and fishing, or with a book in my hand reading away.


Meet Rourke’s Designer: Tara Raymo

Tara Raymo

Tara Raymo

Growing up I was always coloring and drawing. Throughout my school career I had always taken art classes. I was then introduced to design and page layout while in high school by one of my favorite teachers. My love of design took off from there.

I have been working in the Design Department for almost 8 years now at Rourke Educational Media. What a great opportunity to design books for children! The creative process is tough sometimes. I always get excited when new scripts come in from authors. Sometimes I will get an idea right away on the design, and then sometimes it takes some thinking to come up with an idea. My favorite thing to design are the covers, because that is what captures the child’s attention first. I really try to stay in touch with what interests children, by watching cartoons, kids movies, and reading children’s books. This year I am enjoying working on the covers for a new series called Got Math!

Powerful Place ValueWhen I am not at the computer designing, I am either reading, painting, or taking online classes to learn new techniques for painting. If you would like to follow my artistic adventures you can find my blog at

Meet Jane Katirgis!



“Aunt  Jane,  why do your chickens lay more eggs in the spring and summer? And why does Olive lay different colored eggs than Edelweiss?”

Good questions, Brigid!

Looking at the world through the eyes of curious kids inspires me to write nonfiction science books

that give young readers an “aha moment!” I imagine them saying, “Oh, NOW I get it.  That’s cool!”

I worked as a senior science editor of nonfiction young adult books for ten years before becoming an author. I have to say that I never fully appreciated how much work goes into simplifying complex scientific ideas until I started doing it myself! I now strive to be an author who entertains and teaches, and sparks some new questions, too.

Since I have degrees in Biology and Environmental Science, it is not surprising that my favorite thing to write about is the natural world. And many of our hobbies, such as growing lots of food in our garden and raising egg-laying chickens, get me thinking about topics that could make engaging books.

One of the best parts of writing science books is finding out new things every day to share with readers. While researching my upcoming book for Rourke, STEM Jobs in Food and Nutrition, I learned that smartphone technology will soon allow shoppers to scan produce to find out about the farm that grew it, that farmers are using satellite images taken all the way from space to check the health of their crops, and that robots have been invented to pick ripe lettuce and strawberries. Now that’s cool!


Meet Nadia Higgins!


Nadia Higgins“What happens to puddles?” They evaporate, right? Now, try explaining that question for a second grader without using the word “evaporate.” Or “molecule” or “water vapor.”

It’s hard, isn’t it? You really have to think about what evaporation means. And there, in a nutshell, is the reason I love writing science books for children. It’s the best way I’ve found to understand the world around me.

Plus, it’s just tons of fun. Nobody appreciates an amazing science fact more than a kid. Sometimes, when I find a really great one, I can just hear it making the rounds across school cafeterias nationwide. I like to try them out on my kids and their friends. Here’s a favorite from my upcoming book on Solar Systems for Rourke: “Did you know there’s a planet in a faraway solar system where it rains glass?”

That’s true! Go ahead and try it out on the next kid you see. Just be ready. They’ll probably have some follow-up questions . . .

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