My son can, and does, talk about math for hours. Hiking through the woods he will discuss the Fibonacci sequence versus the Lucas sequence in nature. Driving in the car he will lecture on speed and velocity. While fixing dinner I get quizzed on prime factorization. Math is what turns him on. Out of love for my son and respect for his passion, I make sincere efforts to participate. My son is good at explaining what he is thinking and calculating, so I can usually follow his basic train of thought. But at some point, as I struggle to keep up my end of the conversation, I invariably experience brain freeze.
It is an understatement to say that I have an aversion to math. I know that somewhere in me is the ability to understand and love math, but it was drilled out of me in school. I have bad memories associated with math. I was not able to keep up in math. I just didn’t understand most of it, no matter how many times it was explained. The fear stays with me to this day. As I embark on my doctoral program, I am not the least bit intimidated at the idea of writing hundreds of pages of dissertation; but I am terrified of taking the requisite statistics class.
My husband is more comfortable with math and can generally hold up his end of the conversation better than I can. However, when our son launches into his understanding of some recent math theory he’s reading about, it goes over my husband’s head too. A few years ago, we realized that we needed help.
That’s when our Super Math Shero swooped in to save the day! By a true stroke of luck, we found Professor Sue VanHattum through a homeschool network. About two years ago we heard of a monthly math salon and decided to check it out. We arrived at Sue’s house to find all sorts of cool math games and activities laid out, yummy snacks, and a warm and welcoming host. My son immediately began to play, explore, and talk. He warmed right up to Sue. He was among his people.
After a couple of math salons, I could see that Sue would be the perfect math mentor for my son. She was comfortable with his free flowing learning style, shared his passion for math, and was fun to be around. I asked her if she might be interested in tutoring my son. She happily agreed and a wonderful partnership was formed.
It is a joy to watch her interact with my son. When he is doing math with Sue, he is lit from within. I am humbled and amazed to see her kindness and skill in teaching my son how to apply his knowledge and test his theories. She gets him to let go of his perfectionism, to challenge his thinking, and to find elegant solutions. Sue calls him Professor Hayes and truly treats him as an equal math mind. My son loves her. I love her! Thank you Professor VanHattum, you are a true friend and mentor.
Sue’s wonderfully fun and highly informative blog can be seen at