KN: Thanks so much for joining us. TYRANNOSAURUS MATH is the first math picture book I’ve come across that deals with fifteen different math concepts. I know you started making up dinosaur word problems in the classroom. Did you have all of these word problems made up before you wrote the story, or did you work to incorporate new problems as you wrote the story?
MM: I knew beforehand that I wanted to incorporate many second grade math skills. I made the word problems after researching T-rexes and the Cretaceous Era environment. If you look at detailed pictures in non-fiction books- the plants and animals in this case- it's easy to come up with ideas for math problems.
KN: T-Math seems like a fun guy to be around as long as you’re not a plant-eater. What did you do to make T-Math a well-rounded character?
MM: T-Math wants to use and show off his skills (somewhat obsessively!) , he's competitive with his siblings but loves them, he has desires and frustrations. These are all human qualities. The character developed in the process of writing the story.
KN: In addition to being a great book to use for a math lesson, T-Math has to figure out to rescue his sister which means it’s also useful to illustrate character, problem, and solution. Did you think about other problems and solutions, or did you always know what the main problem and solution would be?
MM: In the original manuscript, the climactic moment came when the main character was threatened by a menacing T-rex. The editor asked me to explore other sources of conflict that would be more appropriate for a younger audience. So I explored dramatic possibilities with sibling rivalry, which was already a part of the narrative.
KN: Have any of your other books originated from your time in the elementary classroom?
MM: I wrote a book called "The Shark That Taught Me English" that is part of a literacy program. The main character is an immigrant girl from Mexico who struggles to learn English. Many of the student's I've worked with over the years have been immigrants from Central America.
KN: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
MM: In writing this book, I learned how easy it is to have FUN with word problems. I've posted several lessons on my blog, The Cat & The Fiddle.http://michellemarkel.blogspot.com/
There are lessons using holidays, fantasy, and history. I'd love to see what your students or children come up with!
KN: Thank you for the interview.