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Evelyn b. christensen

Author, self-employed

 

I try to think of fun ways for kids to practice math facts and fun ways to stretch their minds using mathematical thinking.

What do you do?

I write educational puzzle books. Not all my books are STEM related, but mathematics is my specialty subject area, so a majority of them are connected to math in some way. I try to think of fun ways for kids to practice math facts and fun ways to stretch their minds using mathematical thinking. Once I come up with a creative idea, I try to find a publisher who would like to publish my creations as a book.

Why did you choose this field?

"My childhood laid the foundation for my later love of [math]." 

I did not exactly ‘choose’ this field. I just sort of grew into it. I trained to be a teacher. I first taught math at the high school level. Then I got my doctorate in education and was going to teach courses for prospective teachers. But I thought, if I’m going to try to teach elementary teachers how to teach, I should have some experience. I planned to do that for just a couple of years, but I fell in love with the little kids and ended up teaching K-2nd for the rest of my teaching career.

Along the way, I discovered that God had given me a gift for creating fun learning materials. Some publishers thought other people would be interested in my materials and were willing to publish them. Although I quit teaching about ten years ago, I’ve continued with my second authoring career.

My gift for incorporating math into puzzles and games was nurtured by my growing up experiences. I, actually, didn’t particularly like math when I was young, because of the boring way it was taught, but my childhood laid the foundation for my later love of the subject. Growing up, my five siblings and I spent lots of time playing games and solving puzzles. So puzzles and games were in my blood from my childhood. A good math problem is a kind of puzzle, so even though I didn’t like school math, those activities were helping me develop an active ‘math brain.’ Fortunately, in college I had wonderful teachers who inspired me to love mathematics and major in it.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

When I created my first puzzle book (a set of logic puzzles using coloured paper clips), not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that one day I would be writing on my author website that I was celebrating having more than 50 educational puzzle books and games published, with a total of more than half a million copies sold.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working in STEM because math is such a fun puzzle to me! Creating math puzzles for other people to solve is an incredibly satisfying experience, because I get to use both sides of my brain—the creativity of my right brain, integrated with the logic of my left brain. And the best part of all is when I get feedback from other people telling me how much they enjoyed my puzzles or how much my puzzles helped their students!

Best advice for the next generation

My best advice is to have confidence in your abilities, be open to new possibilities, enjoy what you do, and, if you believe in God, ask God to help you use your STEM gifts to serve others and to make the world a better place.

Fun fact

When I was in 8th grade, school was so boring to me that I taught myself to write backwards in cursive. I turned in one of my assignments written backwards. The teacher wasn’t very happy with me. But I thought that was silly because she could just use a mirror to read it.