Top positive review
"You can count on me." Read this aloud to your students for big conversations!
October 7, 2018
Easy to read aloud in the primary grades. Students will pick up on the repeating line, "You can count on me" which serves to reveal one of the main ideas in this book--that Katherine Johnson played a critical role in the success of NACA/NASA's early space exploration. I'd read this aloud to students for enjoyment and then read aloud again and pose questions for students to turn and discuss in small groups. Questions like -
*How does the author show that Katherine Johnson was determined to become a professional mathematician?
*What were obstacles Johnson (and her family) faced? How did she overcome those?
*Would you describe Johnson as perseverant? Why?
*How does the author's repeated use of the response "Count on me" help develop a big idea in this book?
*How do the illustrations contribute to understanding the details in the text?
ANOTHER STRENGTH of this book is the author's explanation of the kind of mathematics that Johnson did for NASA. I've read several books now about the "computers" at NASA, women who did mathematics for the agency (in its early days) and the authors frequently fail to explain the mathematics or the purpose of the mathematics (other than "it helped NASA") in a way that young children can understand. Young children may wonder why 2+2 is a big deal, you know? Becker, the author, and Phumiruk, the illustrator, have a great two page layout explaining very simply how and why math was helpful in sending a rocket into space. They use the analogy of throwing a ball up--
"But as it runs out, the ball's path curves back toward the ground. Where it lands depends on
what angle it was thrown and how high and how fast it flew.
Because math is a kind of language, Katherine could ask those questions--how high would
the rocket ship go and how fast would it travel?--using numbers..."
With Becker & Phumiruk's simple explanation and illustration, students in the primary grades can begin to grasp the value of Johnson's work. After reading aloud the book, reread just these two pages and use this as a jumping off point for a hands-on experiment as part of an integrated approach, using math and thinking about forces and motion. Lots of potential while learning about a very important person.