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Anaheim elementary school teacher Dawn Nadeau, right, who is graduating in May with a master’s in education-elementary curriculum and instruction, wrote a math book for fifth- and sixth-grade students for her graduate project. Amy Cox-Petersen, professor of elementary and bilingual education, was her project adviser. Photo by Karen Tapia

Math Book = Student Success

Master's Candidate Writes Book to Inspire Future Mathematicians

May 18, 2010

By Debra Cano Ramos
Updated June 8, 2010

About the Math Book

Maria, the main character, is very anxious about the state test in mathematics. Her calculator, Calculo, tries to convince her that she needs him to pass the test — even though it is against the rules. A squirrel, named Gary, warns her about the dangers of Calculo and his evil sidekick, Remainder. This kicks off a whirlwind adventure for Maria where she comes in contact with several colorful characters that help her recall math tips from class that can help her pass the state test. Most importantly, they help Maria realize that she is a very capable and brilliant mathematician. It is a book about discovery, self-empowerment, and most of all — math.

Dawn Nadeau, a Cal State Fullerton master’s student and elementary school teacher, knows first-hand the anxiety some young students have about learning math.

But through her master’s project, Nadeau hopes to lower math anxiety by helping upper elementary-age students learn that they can achieve success in math.

For her master’s project, Nadeu has written an illustrated mathematics chapter book, “Maria’s Mysterious Adventure,” to help fifth- and sixth-grade students better understand algebra and geometry concepts.

“Fifth- and sixth-grade math concepts can be exceedingly challenging for many students because the California content standards cover such a vast area of skills at these grade levels,” said Nadeau, a fifth/sixth grade GATE teacher at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Anaheim. "I am passionate about math, and I really enjoy making math approachable and fun for my fifth and sixth grade students.”

Dawn Nadeau, left, with Amy Cox-Petersen at commencement. Photo by Patrick O'Donnell

Nadeau has completed a master of science in education with a concentration in elementary curriculum and instruction.

When she began teaching in 2005, Nadeau began developing a series of entertaining ministories to teach algebra and geometry concepts to make math less intimating for her students. Her stories include funny elements to maintain her students’ attention, but ultimately, to help them understand how to solve specific types of math problems.

Because there are a limited number of picture and chapter books that address grade level concepts for fifth-and sixth-graders, Nadeau decided to write her own. Nadeau’s fiancé, Matt Perotin, a Cal State Fullerton art major studying animation, illustrated the book.

“I believe that children of all ages love to hear exciting stories. I wrote this book in the hope that it would touch the hearts and minds of many students, both inside and outside of my classroom,” said Nadeau, who was recognized as the 2009 “Teacher of the Year” at John Marshall Elementary School in Anaheim.

“I also hope that students will realize that they, like Maria, the main character, can be brilliant and capable mathematicians.”

Nadeau also wrote a series of math lessons that elementary school teachers can use in conjunction with the book to help reinforce math concepts. In efforts to make the book comprehensible for all levels of readers and English language learners, she also has written a coordinating literature guide for teachers. Her focus on teaching math reflects the university’s renewed emphasis on increasing student interest in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It’s unique to write a children’s picture book to teach math, and Dawn’s book, with multiple chapters and characters, is written to enhance students’ self-efficacy in mathematics,” said Amy Cox-Petersen, a 12-year Cal State Fullerton professor of elementary and bilingual education.

“Dawn is a very thoughtful student who not only thinks through the process, but always has elementary students’ academic success in the forefront of what she does,” said Cox-Petersen, who guided Nadeau through her project.

Nadeau earned her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Cal State Fullerton in 2001 and graduated cum laude. She also completed the elementary and bilingual credential program in 2004. Her ultimate goal is to earn a doctorate in math education.

“I was very proud to be accepted into the teaching credential and master’s programs at Cal State Fullerton because they are such prestigious programs in the field of education,” she said.

“I found the programs to be extremely rigorous and motivating. I embraced the challenge whole-heartedly. I firmly believe that the challenging teacher preparation programs at Cal State Fullerton helped prepare me for the everyday reality of being a teacher, and all of the responsibilities that it entails.”

Nadeau, of Fullerton, will use the book, lessons and literature guide in her own classroom. This summer she will pursue getting her book published and plans to write a sequel.

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