Blending reading and mathematics has proven to be a successful formula for author MW Penn. The result of her chemistry experiment is one of education's most basic fundamentals – "When you catch the students' interest, then you are able to teach them."
Penn recently brought her love of reading and math to Lehighton Area School District for presentations at all four elementary schools – East Penn, Franklin, Mahoning, and Shull-David.
"What impresses me most about MW Penn is that she takes reading and ties it to math concepts," said LASD Superintendent James Kraky. "She multi-tasks – teaching two subjects at the same time."
A resident of New Haven, CT, Penn's goal is to bring the disciplines together and make learning fun.
Penn shared with the LASD students, teachers, and staff her first children's book – Sidney the Silly Who Only Eats 6. For this work, she won the Connecticut Press Club Communication Award for best children's book of 2007. The theme of Sidney is "less than / greater than." According to Penn, "The concept of number grows out of ideas about relationships between quantities."
Her book 2 Lines explores elementary concepts of geometry and demonstrates to children how we can intermix an understanding of fundamental math with everyday surroundings and art. "The story illustrates that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line," said Penn.
She also read to the students Square Bear – a story focused on shapes.
Following the reading of each of her books, Penn worked with the students through the questions and activities that are found in the back of the books that help to strengthen the concepts addressed.
Penn has published poems in several anthologies including Rotary International Literacy Initiative with The Number Tree, A World of Stories, and Caduceus. Highlights has also published her poetry. Her work will again be featured in the upcoming July 2012 issue of the popular children's magazine.
Kraky emphasized, "She's also a teacher of teachers." As an active member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Penn regularly makes presentations to educators. She also visits classrooms and libraries throughout the country to read her work and introduce children to "the different, though related, worlds of mathematics and poetry."
Penn began her professional career designing software systems for AT&T, the University of Florida, and the Food and Drug Administration. Software documentation and manuals led to a career in technical writing and eventually to her true passion – writing books to educate children.
"I'm very pleased to have MW Penn present to all four of the elementary buildings in our district. Her methods of using mathematics within the text and illustrations allow a marriage between math and reading," said Elementary Principal Aaron Sebelin. "I think it's great for our younger students and teachers to see how the subjects can be taught together during a lesson."
"I'm a big fan of Dr. Seuss and the way he could rhyme," said Penn. Her visit to LASD was part of the district's celebration of Read Across America. This is an initiative by the National Education Association to coincide with the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel – better known to the world by his "pen name" – Dr. Seuss.
Writing and illustrating 44 published children's books, Dr. Seuss often used rhyme to help bring his imaginative characters to life. Some of his most famous books include And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
To mark Read Across America, LASD students celebrated their love of books with fun facts and trivia about Dr. Seuss, a school-wide DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time, and a book swap where third and fourth grade students shared their favorite books with each other.