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Venue: The Mountain – at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
They say: “Think numbers are only useful to balance your checkbook? Join Becca, a junior baker facing a dreaded math test, on a musical and visual romp through history, nature and art, during which Pi teaches her the value of numbers.”
Chris’s take: Becca, the pony-tailed protagonist of Cookin’ Up Numbers, opens the play with Barbie’s lament: “Math is hard!” She is making a batch of chocolate chip cookies, and needs to measure 3/4 cup of sugar, a task that flummoxes her. Ah-ha, I think, we shall learn how to use fractions.
Well, no. We shall not learn anything about fractions from this play. We shall learn no math at all. Instead, it turns out, what we shall learn about is the history of mathematics. There’s a sequence about the evolution of written numbers (“From the alpha through iota / that’s how the Greeks would know ya”), a sequence on the Fibonacci Sequence, and so on. It’s interesting, but esoteric. Seriously, a children’s play about base-2?!
I don’t want to be hard on a well-produced performance meant for an audience of children, especially one that clocks in at a very reasonable 45 minutes. But I can’t help thinking that this performance is pedagogically off-the-mark. If the goal is to make a kid see that math is fun and practical, then don’t start start with pi (which is high school-level math, as I recall) and don’t waste time explaining that the bi- in bicycle and binary is Greek. (Incidentally, it’s Latin.)
The audience I was part of was overwhelmingly adult, and unfortunately that was as it should be. The talking numbers, and the “pi” man wearing a pie as a hat are aimed at the Sesame Street demographic, but the content would all be better suited to an Elderhostel seminar.
See it if: You are a vindictive math nerd parent.
Skip it if: You are that parent’s child.