Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Meet Nausheen Ahmed

I'm pleased to welcome guest author Nausheen Ahmed to my blog today. Nausheen has written a clever series of math storybooks for children aged Pre-K to 3rd grade. The first is, "The Mathlin Kids: Addition and Subtraction Made Easy," and the second is, "The Mathlin Kids: Multiplication and Division Made Easy."

Welcome, Nausheen. Can you please tell us a little about yourself and how your background has led to writing these books?

Nausheen: I'm 27 years old, and studied chemistry at UC Berkeley. After graduation I worked for Bank of America. When my son was born, I became a stay-at-home mom. My school and work background led me to write "The Mathlin Kids" series of books.

I believe mathematics is a powerful subject. Falling proficiency in mathematics is a rising concern across our country. By engaging children through storybook formats we can succeed in providing a strong math foundation, and improve their thinking and logic. We can also eliminate preconceived notions and fear about mathematics. My books are a fun sort of way that will grow and develop math skills from early childhood. Strong math skills will allow our children to excel in many different subjects and professions in their future.

Katie: Would you please give us an overview of the two books?

Nausheen: The "Mathlin Kids: Addition & Subtraction Made Easy" takes place in a cottage located in a dense forest. The cottage belongs to an old wizard name Mathlin. His purpose in life is to teach new and exciting mathematical concepts. He starts his mission by creating a teaching assistant named MatheMan using magic. Mathlin casts a spell which brings children (pre-K to grade 3) who want to learn to the cottage where he goes on to explain shapes, colors, counting, addition and subtraction over cookies and hot chocolate.

The book includes supplemental worksheets. After completing these, the child will be able to:
1. Identify the following shapes and their characteristics: diamonds, curves, quadrilaterals, ovals, tetrahedrons, cylinders, stars, cones, and spheres.
2. Draw all the above mentioned shapes.
3. Recognize the following colors: purple, blue, red, yellow, green, orange, brown, and pink.
4. Count up to 36
5. Identify what subtraction is
6. Identify what addition is
7. Subtract single digit numbers
8. Add up to the double digit number 36

The Mathlin Kids: Multiplication & Division Made Easy" takes place at the Calcu-concept Town's Bakery. Mathlin, MatheMan and the children bake croissants and stir up some hot chocolate to study the concept of multiplication. The concepts are later reinforced through the visualization of sets.

After reading and completing the supplemental worksheets, the child will be able to:
1. Understand the concept of sets
2. Visualize how multiplication works
3. Visualize how division works
4. Recite the multiplication tables of 2 through 5
5. Divide even numbers by 2

Katie: When did you decide to write for the Pre-K through 3rd grade group of kids?

Nausheen: My son was four months old when I decided to write the books. I naturally started at the Pre-K level.

Katie: You are designing worksheets and games for these books. Are you also writing a teacher's guide? Why or why not?

Nausheen: There will be a Parent/Teacher guide for the upcoming third book in the series. Targeted at 3rd graders, it covers the majority of the material that is supposed to be covered in the third grade.

Katie: Do you anticipate writing more math related books in this series?

Nausheen: Definitely. I've already completed the script for the third book in the series. I'm currently working on storyboarding and illustrating this book.

Katie: So much of your background contributed to writing this series, but did you find you still had to do a lot of research?

Nausheen: Yes. I spent the majority of my time reading papers and speaking with professors on the learning styles of children before publishing the books. I've listed a few of the links on my webpage for parents and teachers to reference as well.

Katie: The first two of your books were used in a two month case study at a local school. What was the purpose of the study, and what were the results?

Nausheen: The purpose of the study was to quantitatively measure the effectiveness of the books and worksheets. There was a 12% average improvement in the test scores. Students were also asked to give feedback on the pictures, characters, formats, and colors used in the books.

Katie: Turning to marketing and promotion, what have you done for these two books?

Nausheen: The books were launched in mid-July, 2008. I started off by showing the books to two local school districts. One of them invited me to read at a local StoryFest event. The other district decided to use the books in a third grade classroom where I was able to conduct my case study as well. The books also got a very good response from the local media. From then on, it's just been word of mouth and the product representing itself.

Katie: What aspects of marketing and promotion have worked best for you? What worked the least?

Nausheen: The best? Letting my consumers see the products. Once they see my books, they basically sell themselves. Emailing people has definitely been the least effective method of marketing.

Katie: What are the three most important things you have learned while crafting these two books?

Nausheen: The first was to believe in yourself. The second is to believe in your product. The third thing is to work as hard as you can to succeed and not give up even if you come across red tape and unexpected hurdles. If you do all this, doors do open up and opportunities start to present themselves.

Katie: What advice would you give other aspiring writers?

Nausheen: If you're passionate about writing something, write it. Don't let anyone get you stressed out or frustrated when they say it won't publish, or that it won't sell. Keep focused and always try to research the market that you're trying to capture by keeping your customers' needs in mind. It's your target customer base that will determine the success or failure of your books.

Katie: Thanks for being my guest today. Learn more about Nausheen and her books on her website.


Deb Hockenberry said...

Hi Katie & Nasheen,
Great interview! Making math interesting is a great idea!
Deb :-)

Cheryl said...

These are such neat looking books. Keep up the great work.


N A Sharpe said...

Thanks for the great interview. This is a wonderful concept for books! Congrats!