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Crazy 4 Math Review by Kathy GelzerSusan Jarema
PO Box 31112
Port Moody, BC V3H2CO Canada
Crazy 4 Math is an audio CD about math. It is based on a live, interactive school show by the same name that uses live music, puppets, and animation. For more than 60 minutes, the CD uses alternating dialog and song to foster a love for math in children. The narrative shows the importance of mathematics throughout history by "interviewing" Cleopatra, Archimedes, Galileo, Benjamin Franklin, Mozart, and da Vinci. It also communicates how math is used in sports, music, computers, art, cooking, building, and finance. The music is rock, reggae, and country with some bits of classical thrown in.
The CD insert gives an introduction to the story and characters, song credits (but no lyrics), and a short letter to parents and teachers. The letter has suggestions on how to use the CD in conjunction with other math materials. It says it is for ages 5 and up, but much of the math vocabulary and concepts (exponents, irrational numbers, pi, prime numbers, and square roots) would be unfamiliar to young children. Unschoolers may be more drawn to this CD than traditional homeschoolers since it provides more of an introduction to and perhaps incentive for math than specific instruction. I would say it is marketed primarily for public schools.
The tunes are catchy; some of them even made me want to jump into my leotard and start doing some of my college aerobics moves! Crazy 4 Math does a good job of conveying the importance of math in our world. My curiosity was piqued by several of the narratives, especially the one about sound waves. I wanted to learn more about frequency and amplification!
Cleopatra has a southern accent, Archimedes has a French accent, and Leonardo da Vinci sings like Elvis. The narrative said that Benjamin Franklin wrote the Declaration of Independence, but actually he signed it. These mixed-up references could be confusing to children. The information is dispensed at a pretty quick clip, and I had difficulty keeping up. But what disturbed me most was the basic premise that math needs to be "fun" in order to be learned and that "children will love mathematics if it is made fun at an early age." My belief is that math, along with many other worthwhile subjects and pursuits, is at times just plain hard work. Often, we learn to enjoy things along the path of diligence.
How did my children like it? My 11-year-old son said, "If those people were alive and listening, I don't think they'd want that song about them to be rock." My 8-year-old got tired of listening and said there was too much talking. I think the concepts were too difficult for her to grasp.
Crazy 4 Math is mostly fun--not learning. The CD promotes a positive attitude toward mathematics, but by the time you are finished listening, the refrain "I'm crazy for math" will be running through your head.
Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2007