I don’t know who needs to hear this (everyone?), but The Way of the Househusband is getting an anime (Netflix) this year, so if you haven’t yet discovered this hilarious, wholesome and infinitely uplifting manga series, check it out before it comes out on Netflix – you won’t regret it: Cute puppers? Check. Incredible artwork that captures expressions that border on grotesquely realistic but remain firmly rooted in the manga style? Check. Non-sequiturs flying about based on puns and misunderstandings (because Tatsu is a former yakuza who looks the part)? Check, check, check! A surprising feminist icon highlighting how much invisible labour housewives take on, giving value to that labour and making sure everyone he encounters understands how much work being a house(wife/husband) is? CHECK.
I know basically every celebration of pi day (March 14, because pi = 3.14…) turns into a celebration of pie, and I’d never say no to pie, but what if we could celebrate with delicious pies while also learning more about what math is at the same time? Conveniently enough, Eugenia Cheng, author of X + Y, has already done this for us: How to Bake π.
Now, I’m going to take a bit of a detour away from tasty delicious pie and into the world of knitting for a brief moment. Upon asking a college classroom what came to mind when asked about mathematics, math professor Sara Jensen found the top two words were “calculation” and “equation”. Asked the same question, professional mathematicians gave quite a different response: “critical thinking” and “problem-solving”. Which prompted Jensen to “eliminate pencil, paper, calculator (gasp) and textbook from the classroom completely. Instead, we talked, used our hands, drew pictures… And of course, we knit” (Jensen, Why I Teach Math Through Knitting), in an attempt to bridge the gap between how students approached math (calculating equations, memorizing proofs…drudgery) and how math could actually be used as a tool, engaging learners by making the learning interesting and more hands-on. I’ve joked before about how I’ve done more linear algebra while knitting than learning it in class, and certainly with more of a vested interest in how the abstract numbers translate to the physical object! And I’ve also thanked Pythagoras before for imparting his theorem to us while figuring out how to calculate length as I knit on a bias. In fact, I have found myself wanting to engage more with math as I knitted more and more, making alterations and designing my own items – it’s all the same math I learned by rote back in school, approached with a lot more enthusiasm now in comparison, and willingly at that!
And it’s exactly this work of transforming how we think of math, from equations and calculations to problem-solving and critical thinking, that Cheng does in How to Bake Pi. She makes math fun to learn, and accessible to audiences of varying levels of math knowledge, which is quite a feat!
This year’s Freedom to Read week kicks off tomorrow, February 21, so let’s celebrate our freedom to read by exploring books that have been challenged or banned, contested in some way! Every year, Freedom to Read week and Banned Books Week (in the fall) roll around and we’re prompted to talk about why it’s important to have the freedom to access all sorts of different books, whether they agree with our point of view or not. We might think that banned or contested books would probably be extreme in their content, but in fact, most of us will definitely recognize one of consistently contested or banned books/series: Harry Potter. Yes, Harry has been being hunted down not just by Voldemort, but also by members of the general public. Apparently it’s been contested since the series came out, mostly for religious reasons – luring kids into practicing witchcraft! – but can you imagine a world where Harry Potter was successfully banned? Where we’d have had to as kids to exchange contraband Potter books in order to get our hands on the latest release, if at all? Actually, I can imagine that kind of world, especially since 2020 gave us, among other things, the national security law in Hong Kong, not to mention earlier this year, Hungary made LGBTQIA+ disclaimers mandatory on children’s books. So it’s a good time to pause and not take for granted our freedom to read.