Family PS

I found this folder on my computer that I’d mentally tucked away in the O-em-gee-this-was-a-helluva-lot-of-work-so-never-doing-it-again-pile.


It was my “Family PS” folder. (My last post was about PSs.)

I opened up the folder and had one singular thought: God, I was good!

But I don’t mean “good” in the sense of brilliance at all. I mean “good” in the sense of you-poor-woman-you-have-no-social-life-so-you-spent-half-of-your-summer-and-endless-hours-during-the-school-year-to-create-these?

I am genuinely impressed with how pathetically devoted I am to problem solving.

Halfway through the summer of 2008 I decided to make a two-page math newsletter that would go home to my students’ families. It would have a couple of PS-type problems, fun tidbits, a cartoon here and there, featured website(s), etc. That decision was mistake numero uno. I also decided it would come out weekly — effing weekly!! Mistake numéro deux. Then I sat down at my computer, opened up Microsoft Publisher, and actually made “Issue 1.” Mistake thứ ba.


3I knew the usual start to every school year would be hectic, so for the rest of that summer I cranked out the first 8 issues. 2008-2009 was a year of sleep deprivation and cellulite accumulation, but I’d turned out 30 issues.


Below was my “Issue 30” — I now notice there’s a blatant lie on it. Under the heading, top right hand corner, it reads:

Answers to this week’s problems will appear in the first issue of 2009-2010.


6Unless you have a personal secretary and a personal chef (and housecleaning service), please don’t try this at home.

What I do hope is that you’ll consider something mathy — anything tiny and almost effortless — to include in your school’s weekly/monthly newsletter.

Recruit your students to help. Each week is assigned to one kid or to a group of kids. Add something mathematical to the school’s monthly lunch menus. Add a survey and post the results the following week. Ask for estimations. Feature a math teacher once a month. Feature a mathematician — don’t forget the female ones too. Of course throw in a PS every now and then. I was the only math teacher during 08-09, but if you’re at a larger school, then one teacher can be in charge of just one or two months in the school year. Spread the joy. Have fun.

I had so many parents — like four — who told me they really looked forward to getting the weekly newsletters. How much they enjoyed solving the PS together at dinner time. They laughed at some of the jokes and cartoons. How do you find the time, Mrs. Nguyen? Do you ever sleep? They kindly thanked me and thought I was pretty great.

But they never gave me cash for it.

I think I’m going to change the dates on this set of 30 and reuse them for 2012-2013 because my once crazy-and-awesome newsletters deserve a second glance.

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