Name: Laura Overdeck
Business: Bedtime Math Foundation , math programs for children
Industry: Children’s Goods & Services
Location: New Jersey, U.S.
Reason for starting: I loved numbers when I was growing up. Math was a fun part of activities I did with my parents – baking in the kitchen with Mom, playing with rulers and power tools in Dad’s workshop. I was never subjected to flash cards and worksheets. Enjoying math made me open to mastering it, and mastering math enabled me to study my favorite school subject and eventual college major, astrophysics. Years later, as a mom, it was only natural for me to give my kids math problems at night along with their bedtime story. I started small with “Let’s count the ears on your stuffed animals.” That nightly ritual grew – and the mathematics got more complex – as my children got older.
Fast forward a few years and Bedtime Math Foundation was born. Bedtime Math serves up wacky nightly math problems to over 50,000 loyal fans by email, on our website, and on our free app. Math is the language of science and the key to innovation. Children who are fluent in math are more likely to be creative thinkers, skillful problem solvers, and able to work in rapidly growing STEM fields. This led to our best-selling children’s books, and now we’ve launched Crazy 8s, a nationwide after-school math club designed to get kids fired up about math. What started out as a fun mathematics activity for my children has now grown into a nationwide movement to make math cool and to get kids fired up about numbers.
How do you define success? To me, success means having a big impact that can be measured against an initial goal. There are so many noble nonprofits out there doing good work, but it becomes all the more powerful if you can point to the number of people touched, and as the fraction of those who need your help. For Bedtime Math, we’re always thinking about the 25 million schoolchildren in our target range and the fraction of them that we can reach with Bedtime Math.
Biggest Success: Bedtime Math is my biggest success in life, and within that I think Crazy 8s, our after-school math club, may become our highest-impact offering. There’s no nationwide math club for elementary school kids that any kid would want to join (as opposed to competitive Olympiad-style offerings that appeal to a select few). We hoped to start 300 clubs this fall, and so far we have 1,800! So I think there’s a real hunger for this and that our club can meet that need.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Our biggest challenge is the current state of mind in our culture about math. It’s really hard to convince parents that a math book can be playful, given that math books for kids are almost entirely workbooks. It’s all drill and kill. We’re so excited that Bedtime Math has sat among the best-selling workbooks to show people an alternative. With our after-school club, it’s been hard to retrain people to say it’s a “club,” not a “class,” and that the leader is a “coach,” not a “teacher.” But we’re working at it and we see change happening.
Related: The New Empowering Kid on the Block
Who is your most important role model? My parents. They gave me a childhood where numbers were part of the fun. We had a house free of flash cards and drilling, and instead we used math all the time in all kinds of projects: baking with my mom, carpentry with my dad, gardening with both of them. They are the reason I love math.
Edited by The Story Exchange