Education Technology

An Atomic Summer Reading List for Math Teachers

Posted 06/02/2023 by TI Staff

From “Rocket Girls” to “Atomic Habits,” this summer reading list is a treasure trove of explosive thinking! We asked Kim Thomas — a College Algebra, AP® AB Calculus, and AP® BC Calculus math teacher from Arizona — what was on her reading list this summer. Her list mixes in the science and research around the teaching and learning of math, teaching practices, as well as curious stories from history.

This is a powerful collection of thought-provoking books. Perfect for red hot summer reading!

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“Rise of the Rocket Girls”
by Nathalia Holt

Start off with a bang with this true story about the women “human computers” at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1940s and ’50s. Follow the story of how this elite group of young women transformed rocket design, shaped lunar missions, and ushered in a new era of space with their pencils, papers and quick-thinking mathematical minds.

“If you liked ‘Hidden Figures,’ then you need to read this! You will gain a better understanding of history, the role and the need for quick calculations and the beginnings of American exploration of space.”

Based on the research and interviews from the living members of the team, “Rise of the Rocket Girls” offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science. A must-read!

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“Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning”
by Pooja Agarwal and Patrice Bain

Dive into the fascinating research on student learning. Together, authors Agarwal and Bain decipher cognitive science research and illustrate how to successfully apply the science of learning into a classroom setting. A practical resource, this book is filled with evidence-based strategies that are easy to implement in less than a minute — without additional prep!

“I purchased this book to follow-up previously reading ‘Make It Stick’ by Peter C. Brown. I have a deep interest in brain research and the science of learning, and I will definitely read this book this summer.”

“Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning” is an indispensable resource for educators who want to take their instruction to the next level. Equip yourself with scientific knowledge and evidence-based tools to turn your teaching into powerful teaching that unleashes student learning in your classroom.

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“Motivated: Designing Math Classrooms Where Students Want to Join In”
by Ilana Seidel Horn

Every teacher has faced the dreaded blank stare from students. Why didn’t your carefully planned lesson connect? When you feel, “I’ve tried everything,” author Seidel Horn is here to tell you that you are not alone.

In “Motivated,” Horn shows why certain teaching strategies create classroom climates where students want to join in and introduces five factors that lower the risk and raises the benefit of participation: belongingness, meaningfulness, competence, accountability and autonomy.

“It’s time to reread this book and think about how I want to start the school year keeping in mind student motivation in the mathematics classroom.”

“Motivated” is a guidebook for teachers unsatisfied with questions met by silence. Explore these motivational math features in-depth, find ways to identify impediments to each factor, and how to weave these strategies into your classroom.

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“Productive Math Struggle: A 6-Point Action Plan for Fostering Perseverance”
by John J. SanGiovanni, Susie Katt, Kevin J. Dykema

A teacher’s job is not to remove struggle from their students, but rather to value and harness it so they may grow, learn and develop good habits. But, how do we as educators achieve this and what plan can we put into action — especially as it applies to math?

“This book will provide some research-based practices and ideas for promoting effective productive struggle in the classroom.”

“Productive Math Struggle” provides a game plan for overcoming obstacles with actionable steps, activities and tools for implementation, as well as instructional tasks and real-world examples.

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“The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements”
by Sam Kean

Maybe you don’t remember the atomic number for Gallium on the periodic table (Ga, 31), but we bet you won’t forget a melting spoon! Get to know the elements of the periodic table as you follow the fascinating tales behind each element’s discovery and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.

“This is a great book that shares a lot of information about history and science in a way that is entertaining and appealing to those who may not remember a lot from chemistry class.”

“The Disappearing Spoon” masterfully fuses the history of science to a treasure trove of adventure, betrayal and obsession.

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“Educated: A Memoir”
by Tara Westover

“I could not put this down once I started reading the book. I knew nothing about the story when I read this book, but once I started reading, I could not stop till I got to the end of the book. It is an eye-opening book that will invoke a lot of emotions for the reader.”

With a recommendation like that, we’ll try not to spoil this book too much. Follow the true story of Tara Westover, who was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Coming from an isolated home life, Westover’s quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her across continents and over oceans to Harvard and then Cambridge University.

“Educated” was named one of the ten best books of 2018 by The New York Times, won the John Leonard Prize For Best First Book, the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and it was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s Award In Autobiography. It was one of President Barack Obama’s favorite books of the year as well as being on Bill Gates’ 2018 holiday reading list.

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“Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones”
by James Clear

Trying to change a habit? The problem isn’t you, it’s your system.

James Clear, a leading expert on habit formation, shares practical strategies on how to form good habits, break the bad ones, and master small, easy-to-apply behaviors that lead to remarkable results. Clear distills ideas from biology, psychology and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits.

“I love the science and research behind the strategies presented in this book. Read this book for your own goal setting and to help your students break bad habits (like procrastination).”

No matter your personal, professional or educational goals, “Atomic Habits” offers a framework for improving — every day. Learn how to make time for new habits, overcome lack of motivation and willpower, design an environment for success, and how to stay on track.

Kim Thomas is a National T³™ Instructor who currently teaches College Algebra, AP® AB Calculus, and AP® BC Calculus in Phoenix. Thomas is passionate about integrating technology into the mathematics classroom for exploration, discovery and visualization. As a fun fact, Thomas has decided to have a personal goal of banning the word “over” in math class unless the intended meaning is physical placement.

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