If you’re a last minute gift-giver like I am, the best-case scenario you can hope for is to find a present that looks like you put just the right amount of thought into it.
There’s no better way to create that effect than by giving a gift that provokes thought and stretches the mind.
When exchanging gifts over the holidays, many students are just happy to get a break away from finals. However, too much time away from the books means they might be getting a little soft around the mental edges. As online math tutors, we’ve come up with the best brain-efficient holiday gift list for students.
Warning: if the student gift recipient is a math-hater, you may get some backlash (or at least an eye-roll and reluctant, “thaaaaanks.”). Do not be discouraged. As a third grader I received a Rubik’s cube for Christmas and threw it in the corner. I picked it up a year later and began to master it. I am now an adult and can solve one blindfolded. The lesson here: these math gifts will one day make you the smartest, coolest person at the company holiday party.
Arduino Starter Kit
Arduino is a computer hardware/software company that makes DIY kits that allow for endless possibilities and afternoons of STEM-y goodness. This gift is perfect for bringing out the engineer from within a student by familiarizing them with processes and automation.
“Arduino boards are able to read inputs – light on a sensor, a finger on a button, or a Twitter message – and turn it into an output – activating a motor, turning on an LED, publishing something online.”
Math Wall Clock
Students spend most of the class period staring at the clock anyway. While they’re at home, they might as well be internalizing math concepts.
Of course, there’s no high-level computations happening here. But associating the Pythagorean theorem every time noon comes around is a great sign to grab some lunch.
Plus, it looks cool?
Go Board Game Set
You could buy a chess set, but that would make you lame and un-original. If you want a game that will actually make itself out of the original packaging, then the Chinese Go may be your best bet.
The rules are simple enough for a 12-year-old to pick up, yet the level of mathematical complexity ranges widely. The game teaches abstract math concepts and strategy. It is perfect when the Wifi is slow.
The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions
By Andrew Hacker
A great gift for the cultured artist in the family who swears he/she doesn’t have a “math brain”. You can’t go wrong if that’s the case: they get to read a bestselling novel while gaining an understanding about the importance of quantitative subjects.
Andrew Hacker’s 2012 New York Times op-ed questioning the requirement of advanced mathematics in our schools instantly became one of the paper’s most widely circulated articles. Why, he wondered, do we inflict a full menu of mathematics—algebra, geometry, trigonometry, even calculus—on all young Americans, regardless of their interests or aptitudes?
The Math Myth expands Hacker’s scrutiny of many widely held assumptions, like the notions that mathematics broadens our minds, that mastery of azimuths and asymptotes will be needed for most jobs, that the entire Common Core syllabus should be required of every student. He worries that a frenzied emphasis on STEM is diverting attention from other pursuits and subverting the spirit of the country.
Disclaimer: This book is sure to spark heated dinner table arguments about the usefulness of institutionalized math classes