Saturday, 16 August 2014

Q & A with Taralee Turner

Continuing on from yesterday's post. I recently read, and thoroughly enjoyed Norma Normal and the Missing Math Teacher.
Norma Archimedes Normal is a quirky twelve year-old with talents for solving mathematical mysteries and for finding trouble...
When her favourite Math teacher disappears, Norma recruits her side-kick Elmo Edwards (Ed) to assist with her search. The dynamic duo becomes a team of three when Pascal Descartes, the son of the Similar Lake's police chief, concludes that Norma and Ed are in over their heads and decides to ride to the rescue.
When the trio's search to find Miss Euclid becomes a treasure hunt, they find themselves involved in a problem-solving adventure, turned dangerous...

Thinking it would be a great addition to any math classroom, I contacted the author, Taralee Turner. I was truly grateful when she generously donated 5 copies for me to giveaway on my blog! 

After reading the book, and learning that Taralee was from my hometown, I was a little curious to find out more about her, and of course how the book came about.

She graciously agreed to a Q & A, and I am excited to share her insightful answers with you. 
It turns out we have quite a bit in common, from our views on teaching math, to her attending the school I currently teach in!

Norma Normal and the Missing Math Teacher

Q & A with Taralee Turner

Q: What was the motivation behind this book? What was your intention?
A: I wanted to create:

  • a story that encouraged students to look at Mathematics in a new way: as a potential adventure.
  • an opportunity for students to see math applied to “every day” activities. 
  • a heroine that would contradict the stereotype that girls aren't hard-wired to be good at mathematics.
  • a bridge between mathematics and application in real world.
  • a tool for teachers that would create an opportunity for across-the-curriculum teaching; in this instance collaboration between Mathematics and Languages Arts Teachers. 
Q: Why did you write a book with a middle school audience in mind?
A:  For both pragmatic and sentimental reasons.  I wanted the characters to be close in age to the audience to maximize the reader’s personal connectivity.  The story I envisioned required that the key characters have a fair amount of independence, and, to achieve my objectives I needed to target a pre-secondary audience where across-the-curriculum teaching was a more viable opportunity for teachers.
On the sentimental side, I personally found middle school to be an important time of self-discovery. I believe there is a closing window of opportunity during middle School to build student confidence/self-esteem.  I consciously incorporated three confident, but otherwise very different friends as central characters to promote individuality. 
Middle School students are starting to consciously define their identities in a more complex way, but have not passed the point of enjoying a simple adventure story!

Q: Are any of the characters in the book based on people you know in real life?
A:  Only tenuously.  My daughter was two when I started to notice the determined set in her chin when she tackled a problem.  I remember wondering what kind of young woman she would grow into given the potpourri of characteristics amongst her extended family.  The seed that grew into Norma started with that determined chin, but once I began writing Norma’s identity flowered into her own.  In a similar way, there are hints of people I know in all the characters.

Q: You have woven mathematical problem solving throughout your story. Where did your interest in math stem from?
A:  Keeping in mind that I attended the School well before current curriculum was introduced, I had no true interest “classroom” Math beyond the satisfaction of getting the right answer.  I loved puzzles (cryptograms, logic problems, etc.), and keeping track of my money (to the penny), and problem solving but oddly, did not associate these interests with Math.  I did, however, have a natural aptitude.  Teachers observed this early, and then eagerly encouraged me.  It was the ongoing positive reinforcement from teachers that kept me engaged until I had an opportunity to start to apply math to life.  It was in late high school, when I started to see math within the context of its uses in the working world, that I truly began to take an interest; and also started to understand the importance of educators linking information/knowledge to application.

Q: What is your most memorable grade? Teacher? Subject?
A: Grade 6 at Emerson Elementary in Winnipeg brings a flood of memories; it was a year that seemed to last forever, and I stacked-up more life lessons in one year than in any other year I can think of before or since. 
Though I wish I could share several stories, I will share the one that perhaps most inspired Norma Normal.  My grade 6 teacher, Mr. Bryski was teaching Health (he also taught Math); he calculated on the chalk board how many trips to Disney World his kids could have taken had he never smoked.  I was awed.  He had made math personal.  It was the first time I distinctly recall math being applied to real life in a way where it led to more effective personal decision making.  An accountant (and a non-smoker) was born that day; though I did not realize it until many years later!
I had favourite topics within subjects, but never a favourite subject; with Math I enjoyed problem solving and disliked memorizing multiplication tables, with Language Arts I liked creative writing and reading, but disliked spelling and grammar, etc. 

Q: What is your educational background?
A:  Though I have a Bachelor of Education (Mathematics and Language Arts), I realized early that a love for learning and a strong belief in the importance of education did not translate into being a great classroom teacher!  I went on to earn a professional accounting designation, and have been working with not for profit organizations involved in the education industry. 

Q: Do you plan to write any more books in the future? Do they include a focus on math again?
A:  Yes, though the timing is uncertain, there will be a sequel to Norma Normal.  However, the next book will focus on Pascal Descartes and his love for Sciences.  Since Norma will insist on being involved, I expect there will be plenty of Math!

I want to thank Taralee for her generosity and time, and I look forward to reading her next book some time in the future!

If you haven't entered the giveaway to win your very own copy of Norma Normal and the Missing Math Teacher, make sure you do!

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  1. OMG This books seems so interesting and a must have in my classroom! I would love to read it and I bet the kids would get a kick out of it too!

  2. math in real life...what a concept :)
    I would love to read this book and share it with my middle schoolers!

  3. Cool! I have some kids who will love this book! Can't wait to see the next one!

    The Math Maniac

  4. Where did you purchase the book?

    1. Hi there,
      Unfortunately the book is not yet widely available. My hope is that by sharing this book with my followers it will one day be available to a wider audience.
      Here's the link to the bookstore that currently carries it.
      Or you can contact the author directly to purchase a copy at

      Thanks for your interest!