On Math, Teaching, and the Magic of Bad Drawings: A Conversation with Ben Orlin

Luke claims he is Allergic to Math (insert me rolling eyes here)…hoping that Ben and his Math with Bad Drawings will be a part of his cure…. a great post if you are battling your kidlings on why math is important as well a reminder that how we look at math defines our experience with it. Ben has a gift of finding the fun within it.

“An error isn’t just a blemish we need to erase: it’s the outward signal of some inner thought process. If I can help a student unpack their own thinking, then they’ll learn to inspect ideas more closely, and absorb them more deeply.”-Ben Orlin


Ben Orlin’s signature stick figures have been (snarkily) explaining mathematical concepts since 2013 at Math with Bad Drawings. By day a math teacher in Birmingham, England, Ben is a voraciously curious, multidisciplinary writer and educator whose work has also been published at The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, and Slate.

As a longtime fan of his blog, I wanted to ask Ben about cannibalistic numbers, his passion for teaching, and some of the more egregious uses of math in popular culture — and he was kind enough to respond not only with his sharp words, but also his beloved “bad” drawings.

Ben Orlin photo
All drawings in this interview are courtesy of Ben Orlin.

What is it about math that made you decide to teach it?

When it comes to learning, I’m pretty omnivorous: I’d have happily taught English, history, or social sciences — anything but lab sciences…

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My “monkey mind” gets a beat down… and other self discoveries.

“Go out and TRY, you never know who you may inspire along the way.” – Nick Vujicic

IMG_1667Since yesterday, I have been pacing, a tiger trapped in a self-imposed cage… I see the mental doorway of where I am to go next and have been lingering back. Letting my “monkey mind” get the best of me, filling my daring brain with mindless chatter based on fear and failure. This is what can happen when I spend too much time on my computer trying to do too many things at once.

Maybe it’s reflecting on the lost of Prince; another musical Messiah, like Bowie, that makes me more aware that my life is shifting. Am I celebrating my time on Earth like they encouraged and demanded? …Kids are getting older, years wisp by in fractions of a second. The house is physically changing and the breaking of its bones send invisible shrapnel whizzing through the air.

I have fought for this shift. The home remodel, working from home to be present for the kids and my husband. Now, as these endeavors evolve, I am ready to un-peel another layer, to discover what new weirdness lay waiting to be unearthed within.

How do I define myself? Mother. Wife. Friend. Mentor. Philanthropist. Marketer, Communicator. Innovator. Messenger. Micro-disrupter. Harmonizer. Healer. Dreamer. Procrastinator. Not-the-best-housekeeper. ….I have erased the word, Writer, at least l0 times from this list. Why?

It isn’t as if I am at a loss of things to say. Is it because I fear that what I have to write isn’t interesting  enough for you? Or is it by sharing this moment you would see me a weaker, weirder version, than I have shown you before?

As I awoke today, set my intentions of how I plan to show up for the world and serve, I still felt a bit fake. Instead of jumping “all in” and putting my spirit behind my words, I mentally kept one toe out of the water, going through the motions instead of fully surrendering.

So, the angst continued to plague me. It was relentless. Self doubt grew inside like a balloon. Instead of continuing to run, from whatever nonsense was building up inside me, I decided to turn around and embrace it. Part of me thought I was literally going to explode, leaving tattered remnants of myself all over the kitchen floor.

I crept into the office, sat in front of the computer and thought, “just write.” Get whatever is festering OUT.

Write about ANYTHING. Write about the tools you have discovered that help you show up as a better human being in this world (…Yeah, those same tools that you are not using right now, which is why you feel so disconnected).

Write about how you have been changing inside because you have been trusting yourself more and so desperately want others to discover how empowering that is. Write about how you want to help everyone but sometimes loose perspective and get overwhelmed with the HOW.

Staring at a blank screen, I decided to do some research, ie. stall. Bam! I stumble upon this video of Nick Vujicic; A man who encourages each of us to get out of our heads and live. To try. To fail… I know all of this. I spend my time teaching this.

Today, I needed to hear it again. I needed to hear it in his words; through his story. Nick was born without arms and legs. He struck me as encouraging and compassionate. He reminded me of where I needed to be. Present. Here in the now.

So, I write. With each word, I attempt open the door of possibilities. I allow the world to see me, in this moment. Open and exposed; willing to show each of you my vulnerability. Unsure but trusting myself to make the right choices when they present themselves.

I chose not to file this journal entry away, but to share it with you. Because, maybe today, you need to hear that you are BEAUTIFUL.  You need to know that your self doubt doesn’t define you IF you don’t let it stop you from doing whatever it is you are meant to do. That I will love you through your weak moments and weirdness- even if you don’t love or understand mine. That the LEARNING is in the frustration and failure. Feeling humble. Feeling human. Acknowledging that self-doubt lives within us all and what sets us apart is what we do next.

May you go out into the world and try something new today.

Laugh hard. Love strong. Live to serve.


Kimberly Crawford


Why even my worst day is THE BEST DAY EVER!

This morning started off a bit rocky, coffee couldn’t cure it, healthy smoothie didn’t even make a dent…. PMS was in full effect. Kids be warned!

There is nothing like sneaking in a play-date with your 4 year old to obliterate the morning grumps. Check out the video; a guaranteed laugh to get you over hump day! Thanks Ziva!

Laugh hard. Love strong. Live to serve.


Kimberly CrawfordIMG_6548

Happy Birthday Bunny Boo!

Ziva Sloane, means “Radiant Warrior”

On the 26th of March, my daughter Ziva was coaxed into the world a bit early for her liking. Maybe she knew Earth wasn’t ready for her and wanted to give everyone a chance to catch their breath before her arrival, that or she was busy doing her hair.

Once she arrived, our lives were never the same. Ziva got right down to business, teaching her brothers and parents how to properly care for a Q.I.T. (Queen In Training). Redefining what it means to “hit like a girl” and modeling to the world that you can be a warrior and practice kindness in the same moment. We are blessed to be in your court, baby girl. Here’s to celebrating your 4th year in reign.

Happy Birthday!! xoxo-Mam

Ziva 4 poster jp

Show me your Mother Crazy and I’ll show you mine

I had a glorious moment in the car alone one day. Yes, you heard me right; Alone!  Me and my racing brain, Shaking it off with  Taylor Swift on the radio, ready to tackle my long list of errands. Even though I was alone, I couldn’t help but replay the many “mother crazy” moments  I had lived through. You’d think I  would fill my brain with other worldly, non-kidless  thoughts like … (crickets…wow, I need to get out more!)

My, “what if people could only hear my responses to the various questions or situations my audacious kid-lings prompted?” manifested this poem below.

What have you heard yourself saying aloud to your offspring? Oh, come now… don’t be shy… I show you my “mother crazy” all the time… now show me yours😉

Laugh hard. Love strong. Live to serve!


Kimberly Crawford

Mama Said

I’m sure it was an accident; your sister didn’t mean to break it.
Honey, please let go of my pant leg, my butt is showing.
YOU pooped where?!

No, you can’t have more chocolate before naptime.
Stop putting crayons up your nose.
– Ouch, that was my toe.

Thank you for the bouquet of milkweed flowers
…And the 4 limes that weren’t ready to be picked.
How do you know what a worm tastes like?

Yes, I did hear 10 band-aids are better than 1,
I see you got that memo too.
Of course, I will kiss your elbow.

Do you smell that? Is something on fire?!
Yes, I will still love you, now tell me… where is your little brother?
Oooooh, Just you guys wait till your father comes home!

The picture is beautiful; of course we can put it on the fridge.
Daddy and me made you guys from scratch out of love, that’s how.
Can I show you? Uh,no.

This is the final, final, bedtime story.
Yes, I will always be your Mommy.
I love you too.

-Kimberly Crawford
stickers in the light

#5words Sir Richard Branson Challenge

Inspired by Sir Richard Branson’s #5word challenge I asked myself, “Can I describe what I do in 5 words?” The answer was murky at best; are you asking the mommy-self, the writer-self, the activist-self, the educator-self,..the wife…the friend… (I’m a Gemini…we’re SUPPOSED to have a lot of “selfs” but I am sure you have more than a few in your pocket too;)

When it comes down to it, I believe my purpose on earth is to… Help people through my writing. But I love the simplicity of my motto… Laugh. Love…Serve …hey got it down to 3!

I got a kick out of my oldest son’s answer to the question above.

Luke to me, “Mom, your job is…To keep us safe…ha! I did it in 4 words!” he smiles.

Luke says about himself, “My job is… To help the little ones.”

Right on! What clarity for 8 years old; I think I had my nose in a book at 8 and hadn’t the slightest idea of what a Purpose was let alone have one of my own. I learn SO much from Luke it’s overwhelming at times.

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to teach him a thing or two😉



A few months ago I discovered a Mommy Recharging Station at CV Yoga with Andrea Spence. She teaches Yoga ropes on Fridays (anyone in the area check it out!!) One of the amazing benefits of having Andrea as an instructor is the super cool pics she takes of the students during class to enforce that anything is possible and that we CAN do unthinkable things. I would come home and show the victory of my efforts to the kids and they would go bananas!

“I wanna go! When can we try that?!” “I didn’t know Mama’s liked to play like that?!” …pretty great responses.

Andrea was gracious enough to welcome my oldest into her class when he was lucky enough to score a teacher work day one Friday.

When I experienced my first class and was told to “trust the rope” and “trust my body to hold me parallel to the floor” the chatter in my brain said NO WAY! RUN!! I obviously didn’t listen and had the time of my life pushing my own boundaries. Now it was Luke’s turn. Like the Champion he is. He knew my job was to keep him safe and wouldn’t ask him to try anything I thought would harm him. So…up he went! Amazing how he just needed a breath of encouragement and he took off like a Pro! Of course he could tackle the Yoga Ropes! He was safe, encouraged and eager to try something new. Now he is ready to teach the little ones….whooa…wait a minute….simmer down Luke!….though if he thinks his 5 year old brother and 3 year old sister are ready, maybe they are…after all Luke takes his job of helping the little ones pretty seriously.

Funny how the pure spirit of an 8 year old can sum up my job better than I can (4 words!) and knows his purpose too!

Do you know yours? Share it with me! Don’t forget to try the #5word challenge. Check out the link above and see what others have posted. Three Cheers for pursuing your purpose!

Laugh hard. Love strong. Live to serve.


Kimberly Crawford