Saturday, August 6, 2011

Math-A-Day - A Book of Days for Your Mathematical Year

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by Theoni Pappas

After sharing Calvin and Hobbes - Weirdos from Another Planet!, it got me thinking of another book which I find very suitable for kids, especially those in preschool education or who had just started their schooling years. Many of my friends are married with children of their own, or at least expecting one in the coming months; Math-A-Day is my dedicated gift to every one of them to explore the world through the fun-filled activities in this book with their growing child in the coming years.

The Author

Truth is, she (yes, Theoni Pappas is a she) is not within my list of known authors until I decided to write this blog. There is a biography page in the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics site dedicated to her, and that shows how important she is in the field of education, especially on mathematics. She may not be the next Pascal or Leibniz, but she may well be training the next of them.

It is quite obvious that Pappas is not satisfied with delivering her knowledge only in school, and I believe that the evidence lies in the number of books she had written over the years. Her books have the aim of delivering mathematical ideas to the general public by removing the intimidating (and boring...) aspects of mathematics and substituting it with fun-filled puzzles and mathematical gems. If you are an educator, this book is for you as well, and you could use the gems in this book to begin or end your class with.

Math-A-Day

As its name suggests, the book contains 366 puzzles (just in case you bought this book in a leap year, I guess), and every puzzle has a date tagged to it so that you could trace your puzzle throughout the year. Most of the puzzles are quite simple for those of us who had attended the elementary maths courses in our schooling years, and will be quite fun to play with your kid. Imagine them scratching their head in frustration on a problem that you solved dozens of years ago (insert sinister laugh here...)

Not all of the problems are directly related to mathematics in our usual sense; some of them involved logic with a twist. I find most of the puzzles quite simple and straightforward though, with a paltry few that really tripped me, so do not be surprised that this is not a challenge for adults. Think of the book more as a kids activity book, just that it was misplaced in the adult maths section instead of in the kids corner...

Try this puzzle and see if you are smarter than a 5 year old... I know I am not... ^^

1, 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 15, 135, 150, 285, ??



The Mathematicians

Although the puzzles are not challenging enough for the adults, there are 2 more sections every day for the adults though. A mathematical quote and a small historical note accompany each Math-A-Day puzzles, a reading for either your entertainment or for your enlightenment on the mathematical field's history and current affairs. Of course, these sections could be a little deep for a kid so this is a good time to bond with your kid by reading him this knowledge and explaining the significance of it.

I myself personally find the quotes interesting, and the historical notes more so. Not only did these notes touch on the mathematical, but also on some items related to more current affairs, such as the fate of Deep Blue (that's the computer who beat Chessmaster Garry Kasparov for the uninformed...) and how the internet came by. Even for adults, you may find these notes enlightening to what you have been learning in elementary maths, and how they came by.

The Conclusion

To an American, the book may just not cost much, but to us poor Malaysians, the book costs near to RM50, so most may find this a little too expensive just to get some maths puzzles which can be found online anyway. Still, this is a fun book for you to try and to share with your kids. If you can buy a Gucci bag worth hundreds, a book that can shore up your knowledge surely worth a few dozens of Ringgit.


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