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Student curator Andrea Checkai
outside of the pencil museum
started by her grandmother.
INSPIRED BY AN aunt who collected pencils,
Karyn Schmitz started her own collection
when she was in high school. Several
decades later, when she’d reached around
2,000 pencils, the Winneconne, Wisconsin,
Costco member says she had the idea to
share the collection with other pencil fans.
So, in 2010, she and her husband, Tom,
began working on The World Pencil Museum
( email@example.com), which is
housed in an annex to their home.
To date, the collection consists of 20,000
items, including wood and mechanical pencils and fountain pens. Their oldest pencil is
from 1884, and the collection also features
left-handed pencils (so southpaws can read
the words) along with pencils from capital
cities, universities, tourist destinations, sports
teams, businesses and more.
Run by students, it’s the only pencil
museum in the United States (there is also
one in the United Kingdom). The Schmitzes’
granddaughter, Andrea Checkai, has served
as the curator for the past five years. And,
this past June, the museum hosted the bi-
ennial American Pencil Collectors Society
Convention, which was held at the University
“We older students teach younger [visi-tors] geography, history and math through
the collection,” says Checkai, who has met
visitors from as far away as Australia. “Our
program covers the history of pencil making
and fun facts about the most-used instru-
WHILE MATH AND fun aren’t often mentioned in
the same sentence, Costco member Laura Overdeck
is out to change that. Bedtime Math (bedtimemath.
org) is her nonprofit organization that delivers
nightly math stories to tens of thousands
“I want kids to love math like they
love dessert,” says Overdeck, a mother of
three from Short Hills, New Jersey, who
earned a bachelor’s in astrophysics from
Princeton and an MBA from the
University of Pennsylvania. She was
inspired to create Bedtime Math after she
began tucking in her children with a kiss,
a story and a clever math problem. Her
children often begged for more math
puzzlers. Bedtime and math in the Overdeck household became as comforting as counting sheep.
“Parents read books to their kids at night. Why
not do the same with math?” Overdeck challenges.
“If kids start school and struggle with reading, at
least they have the foundation of liking books. We
don’t do that with math.”
After creating her Bedtime Math blog in
February 2012, she added an accompanying app
and released the first of her three books (Item
#869561, available 8/3 in most warehouses) in 2013.
She also decided to reach an even broader audience
by starting a You Tube channel of fun
math exercises. She supplemented this
a year later by starting the virtual
Crazy 8s math club, a Web-based
forum that supplies a free curriculum
for educators, libraries and families to
start after-school math clubs. Exercises
include glow-in-the-dark geometry
and toilet paper Olympics measuring
events. Since then, about 3,000 Crazy
8s clubs have launched in schools and
libraries across the country.
Overdeck’s calculations have proven correct.
Children around the country are begging for more
math—she has more than 70,000 subscribers on her
email list, in addition to a plethora of followers on
her Facebook page and mobile app. Her love of
Costco shines through her work: She created a
Bedtime Math video featuring a fun romp around
Costco’s aisles.—Sarah Miller
ment of self-expression of all times: the lowly
yet amazing pencil.”
The museum is open during warm-
weather months and by appointment only.
Instead of an entrance fee, expect to make a
donation of one unsharpened pencil.
—Stephanie E. Ponder
In our digital editions
Click here to watch one of
Overdeck’s Bedtime Math videos.
(See page 13 for details.)