## Math Can Take You Places – #Fractonia Included

FRACTONIA is a short novel for young readers that was intentionally created as an informal learning experience. This story takes a topic from mathematics (fractions, in this case) out of the classroom and into an imaginary world of exploration and discovery. The reader is encouraged to leave behind his or her mental image of what a fraction is, in order to consider a completely different image of what a fraction could be. Changing the way a student imagines a concept or topic can open the door to a “clean slate” relearning experience. When preconceived ideas are no longer posing as formidable obstacles to learning, the educator is given a second chance to lay a solid foundation in the fundamentals.

I wrote FRACTONIA in response to how some young students I know were experiencing fractions. In battling the fraction monster, some students had sadly come to believe that they were simply incapable of understanding fractions or how to work with them. Once a student is convinced they cannot have victory over the monster, there is little teachers and parents can do to change the student’s mind. Young learners with this view grow into older students that fear and hate mathematics. I set out to write a story that would help the readers repaint their mental image of the fraction monster. Fractions should not make anyone feel stupid. Most people have the capacity to understand and work with basic fractions.  I wanted to share a story that would get the reader to be able to look past the intimidating numbers and mathematical operators, and allow them to see that mathematics is a language communicating ideas and describing images of the world we live in.

A short except from FRACTONIA (Chapter 4):

“Where is Miss Brady and the rest of my class?” Matthew decided it was time to outsmart Miss Brady’s hypnotist. Matthew was determined to show the crafty man that he was not entirely under his spell. Yes, he couldn’t explain why the man looked more like a giant mosquito than a man, but that didn’t mean he had to pretend that he had lost the ability to think.

“Miss Brady?” A small, silver plate about the size of a credit card suddenly appeared in the hand (or would it be the paw or the claw?) of Merc. The plate vibrated, buzzed a little, and then vanished. Merc looked up and confidently announced, “No “Brady” in the Royal Service Extraordinaire, and no “Miss” amongst the Numo Regulars, either.”

Matthew’s look of bewilderment elicited another hearty laugh from Merc. “This must be your first time in Fractonia. You don’t know what I am talking about, do you?” Merc asked.

Matthew sighed deeply, suddenly feeling overwhelmed and unsure of himself. He shook his head vigorously as he sensed the threat of tears. “No. No, I don’t have any idea what is happening to me. Are you a hypnotist? Am I dreaming or hallucinating?” Matthew felt torn between his mind’s interpretation of his experience and what his physical senses were telling him was real. What was Merc? Could someone make him imagine something as sophisticated and extraordinary as Merc?

“No, Math, you are not dreaming. You did not imagine me. I am not a hypnotist, although I did once give a speech that put a bunch of entities to sleep. You are not hallucinating. You have simply been translated.” Merc stopped for a moment to let his words sink in.

“Right now, you are in Fractonia. Judging by your appearance, I can guess that you are a human male from the Earth world. Juvenile. Perhaps somewhere between ten and fifteen Earth years in age. Am I right? I am quite the expert, you know. I can identify over fourteen trillion species from over eight million realms. By the way, I am the Communications Officer with the Inter-Realm Royal Service Extraordinaire. I have been working at the Fractonia Outpost for the past seven million three hundred and forty-nine thousand two hundred and fifteen yonkinots.” Merc smiled reassuringly. “Do you still feel as if you are dreaming?”

FRACTONIA is available in print and digital format. (Use the links on “print” or “digital” to buy the book directly from Lulu, or google the title to find it at your favorite online booksellers.) To create a special Fractonia gift set for a young reader, I recommend combining FRACTONIA with the accompanying paperback coloring book: COLOR the REALM of FRACTONIA. The coloring book includes many of the illustrations that you will see in the novel, plus some extra characters that are mentioned, but not illustrated, in FRACTONIA. Additional FRACTONIA goodies, such as t-shirts, hoodies, water bottles, stickers, stationery, and pillows (which are ideal as gifts or classroom prizes) are available from Café Press.

Android loyalists can relax. It is your turn. Apple Stores are not the only device stores to stock Fractonia . If you own an Android device and usually shop at the Google Play Store, you can now purchase a copy of “Fractonia” at Google Play. Google is currently offering a new release price, so you can add the book to your e-library at a significant discount.

Books purchased from the Google Play Store are not only readable on tablets and phones. You can settle back and read these books on your computer using your computer’s web browser.

Join the Fractonian adventure. Take the journey with the lead character, Matthew Roberts. Explore a new world. From silent beasts to the talkative representative of the Royal Service Extraordinaire, there is no shortage of the bizarre and the wonderful in the world of Fractonia. There is much to distract a curious mind in Fractonia and it is easy to fall prey to the passing of the yonkinots. Will Matthew be distracted from discovering the real reason that he was invited to this world? Are you willing to find the answer? The clock is ticking, and time is running out – for Matthew and for Fractonia.

## FRACTONIA in Print

“Fractonia” has been available for some time from e-book stores around the world. You can read the book on your computer, your tablet, or your phone. But if you are not a fan of virtual books, then this post brings you good news. Paper rules! “Fractonia” is a available as a REAL, tree-based book. You can now purchase your PRINT (paperback) copy of the book, and turn those pages the old fashioned (best) way.

The 116-page illustrated paperback is printed in the easy-to-handle (and slip into your bag) 6″x9″ format.

If you are new to the title and have not been following the development of this project, you can read more about Fractonia in the book section of my website. The book is suitable for middle school (advanced) readers, high school students, and adults. While prior knowledge of very simple fraction algebra is a plus, it is not essential. If you previously avoided mathematics as if it was the enemy, and have little to no recall of algebra, you are the perfect reader for this book.

“Fractonia” is an adventure story that demonstrates that mathematics can be visualized as something quite different from a stack of numbers and equations. While not all students think “in pictures”, many who are turned off from more traditional ways of approaching mathematics can benefit from exploring topics in an image-centered way. Even though this book is advertised as a children/teen book in many places, this book is a good way for parents and teachers to explore the concept of visualization in mathematics.

Go on – give it a try. If you discover that you cannot connect with the strange characters or that the odd reference to a mathematical term is frying your brain, you can always donate the book to your local school library. Take a break from whatever you have planned this weekend, and go on a mind adventure – you know you want to do it.

## Parents are the reason that students cannot hack the Math in Physics?

Another physics teacher told me that students cannot hack the math in physics,” says Stewart Brekke in his article entitled, “Urgent Math Crisis in our Nation: Basic Math Deficits Affect Student Performance in High School Physics and Chemistry“.  Is this an unusual observation for a Physics teacher?  Brekke estimates that the USA “may now have over 100,000 high-school students who do not know fractions and decimals well enough to do high-school physics and chemistry successfully, let alone go on to college and pass a physics or chemistry course.”

There is clearly a problem on our hands – many teens cannot do basic mathematics.  Where do we find the source of this problem?

Stewart Brekke speculates that part of the problem may be attributed to the elementary schools placing too much emphasis on reading skills and not nearly enough on basic arithmetic skills. Japanese elementary school students typically spend two to three times as much time on developing mathematical skills as their American counterparts. The result of this shift in priorities is evident.  Stewart also believes that the “lack of a proper foundation at home” is also a significant contributor to the poor arithmetic skills observed in high school students. Sadly, many children enter first grade without being able to count to ten, and their progress in arithmetic skill development is severely hampered.

It is not that parents do not care, for, on the whole, I have seen them show deep concern about their children’s education, but that many of these parents do not take the time to teach their children number facts nor reading skills. These parents must be informed early that their child’s success in school means that they must start educating their children before they enter kindergarten,” says Brekke.

Education systems all over the world invest vast sums of money into remediation of high school students struggling with poor basic skills. Yet high school Physics and Chemistry classes continue to shrink in size as teenagers avoid confronting the issues that stand in their way of understanding these subjects.  Are we trying to solve a problem instead of preventing it?  What would happen if more of the national or state education investment was used for programs aimed at educating the PARENTS of pre-school children, thus effectively equipping them to help their children develop the basic skills needed for future success at school?

Can parents make a difference at home?  All indications are that if parents do not participate in the education process BEFORE their child enters the school system, they may in fact be contributing to their child’s future scholastic failure.