Saturday, October 27, 2007

Benefits of Living Math

(This is a refining of a post I composed for on of the Ambleside Online lists. I realized some folks here might enjoy reading it, too. I apologize for some of the formatting, but I am in a hurry to get off the computer and on with my Saturday.)

"Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater." --Albert Einstein.

We are certainly not math whizzes at our house, but I try hard to keep the door open. There are different kinds of giftedness in math, and who am I to stifle a gift that may not become apparent for years? I am comforted when I remember that Einstein, one of the greatest science minds *ever*, had trouble with math.

We read living math books for fun in our spare time. I have noticed that the living math books give us a touchstone when we come in contact with a difficult new concept in our schoolwork. I can reference a book, and the child will remember the book with
fondness, and it takes away some of the tension we seem to collect when learning math at our house. Another benefit is that some math storybooks help cement vocabulary, which is half the battle where math and science are concerned, imho.

Also, for my older child, some of the books have opened up the sheer excitement of math, some concepts of which she will not learn "officially" for a few years. Unfortunately, many kids who would excel at math "philosophy and analysis", I guess you could call it, are completely turned off in math by the time they get to these
exciting concepts in their traditional texts. I think living math books are to math study what "Tales from Shakespeare" are to literature study-- they provide a preliminary skimming of the concepts without the chore of mathematical figuring, just like "Tales from Shakespeare" provide a joyful introduction to the plot and
characters of Shakespeare plays without the chore of literary analysis.

Exciting concepts we have noted include the idea of a number like 'pi' existing, the thrill of exponential growth, the incredible mathematical order that exists in nature (fibonacci numbers), the hugeness of a googol (or even a googol-plex).

I like the lists at (under Math Reader Listings),but they are so comprehensive that they can be overwhelming. Our list of favorite living math books thus far is below.

For older kids we like:

Murderous Maths series by Kjartan Poskitt

The Joy of Mathematics by Theoni Pappas (I would buy any math book by
this author)

Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poetry for Two Voices by Theoni

Fractals, Googols and Other Mathematical Tales by Theoni Pappas

Math Wizardry for Kids by Margaret Kenda and Phyllis S. Williams

The I Hate Mathematics! Book by Marilyn Burns (I would also by any math
book by this author)

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Power of Un by Nancy Etchemendy

Math Curse by John Scieszka

Mathematicians are People, Too! series by Luetta and Wilbert Reimer

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard Maybury (on the HEO list)

The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jeanne Merrill

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kevin Hawkes

And picture storybooks favored at our house for younger kids (but
help olders too!):

The Grapes of Math: Mind Stretching Math Riddles by Greg Tang
good math author)

Math Fables by Greg Tang

Math-Terpieces: The Art of Problem-Solving by Greg Tang

This is the House That Jack Built (various)

Amanda Bean's Amazing Dream by Cindy Neuschwander and Marilyn Burns

Elsie Times Eight by Natalie Babbitt

One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes

There Was An Old Lady That Swallowed a Fly

There Were Ten in the Bed

The 512 Ants on Sullivan Street by Carol A. Losi

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag

Even Steven and Odd Todd by Kathryn Cristaldi

Bunches of Bunnies by Louise Mathews

One Hungry Cat by Joanne Rocklin and Marilyn Burns

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt

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