|Botany, Math, and Astronomy Gnomes upon a stage made by Willodel|
I used to make Math Gnomes inspired by the dolls used in Waldorf schools, in which the four processes (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division) had personalities that helped children comprehend their duties. Ruling over the four processes was a royal personage who went by "King Equals" or "Empress Equals," depending upon the teacher. As enjoyable as math gnome sets were to make, I stopped sewing them for the shop when I realized that I had never actually sold a single set-- every set I made was for home use, a school auction, or a trade.
I decided to make single math gnomes for children and adults to have nearby for encouragement and inspiration. I wish I had secretly carried a math gnome in my pocket when I was in school. I struggled with math, not because of lack of aptitude, but because I needed more time to work through equations and learn to understand them than the curriculum allowed. Later, chronic absenteeism (or rather, dread of school literally making me too sick to attend school) compounded the problem. A math gnome in my pocket would have kept me company and in my imagination would have encouraged me.
My daughter's teacher has her second graders say, "I am a brilliant mathematician" while stroking their imaginary beards. How can I help but think of math gnomes? (Though to be fair, brilliant mathematician Ada Lovelace was beardless.) I've started to sew STEM Gnomes. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. In the past, I've made variations of astronomy and entomology dolls, but this is the first time I've made them with a series in mind. I'm sewing them for creative whimsy. I enjoy making fairies and maidens with flower baskets, but I want to develop my sewing skills as well as the stories in my head.
Speaking of stories, I remember perking up when I first heard about "story problems," only to find out how tedious the plot-lines were. There's not much dramatic tension in figuring out the rate at which a car will overtake a bus, for example, unless it's actually a car chase. Then, I'd like to know why the passengers in the car were chasing the bus. Did someone steal a painting? Did someone forget her keys? The human interest angle is important!