Maths and beyond

A few weeks ago one Friday, just before our WEIRD (WAB Extended Independent Reading Day) there was a sudden surge in interest in maths books from our G8 students. Unfortunately a little further questioning revealed that it wasn’t so much math books on demand as some kind of math text very specifically on quadratic equations as the students had a test in the next block but couldn’t spend the WEIRD block cramming / practising spreadsheets but had to in fact borrow and read a book.

The only book that really sufficed unfortunately was Everything you need to Ace Maths. While this type of book is a necessary part of a middle school library collection (we are after all there to meet the needs of our students), it got me thinking about the other wonderful books we have in our collection that were summarily rejected by the students.

For a while one of my favourite has been Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec’s “Dear Data“. While not considered to be a traditional “Math” book it can help both teachers and students to change their pre-conceived ideas of how data can be represented. A book like this is particularly valuable in encouraging students who see themselves as more artistic and creative to seeing that one of the important parts of numbers is making the information contained in them visible visually. A point well made by Hans Rosling in his memoir “How I learned to understand the world” – a very enjoyable read by the late author of “Factfulness”.

Recently a most wonderful book landed on my desk. Actually the book that motivated me to write this post at all. Power in Numbers by Talithia Williams – it was an order from before the winter break that I’d made to expand the biographies available for our Grade 6 Unlikely Hero unit. Until now “Hidden Figures” (mainly as a result of the movie by the same name) was the main exposure our students had to the idea of women mathematicians. This type of combined biography is so exciting because it finally gives these women the exposure they deserve. And what I mean by deserve is in a big well designed hardcover glossy full colour book. It’s a trend started by “Goodnight stories for rebel girls” but goes far beyond both in form and content. The women are put in context both of the age within which they lived and the mathematics that they pursued. It’s a book that I was reluctant to let go of to be catalogued and one that I had to immediately share with the math teacher who shares my passion for books! For more from the author see her TED talk below.

Asian parents set a very high stake by their children’s abilities in maths. Our students at all ages are often exposed to acceleration in their arithmetic and math skills whether by Kumon or Abacus or other means. As my colleague is at pains to keep explaining, speed and the ability to use equations and “tricks” don’t always equate to true longevity in maths. One series of mystery books I enjoy exposing this age group to is “Red Blazer Girls” – where the boarding school based heroines use maths to solve mysteries. Often the kids with the so called “math smarts” struggle applying their skills to word / problem / real life based situations.

A few other books that I’ve added to our collection recently include “The Wonder Book of Geometry” , “How not to be Wrong” by Jordan Ellenberg, “Maths in Bite Sized Chunks” , “How to Bake PI“. Continuing in the line of trying to encourage creativity in Maths, there is the Mathematical Origami book and for historical context “Great Breakthroughs in Mathematics” and “17 Equations that changed the World” . Finally something for the sports mad – the Full STEAM in sports series such as “Full STEAM Basketball”

One of the Maths Teacher resource books that have been a hit recently is Peter Liljedah‘s “Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics. One of the benefits of social media includes being able to reach out to and engage with the authors of these books.

To end up this post, here is our Mathematics resource Library guide – happy to get more ideas of resources and the Maths books recommendations on a great website I was just introduced to today – Fivebooks.com! Worth some exploration as experts share their favourite top five books in various aspects of mathematics.

(Header Photo by Roman Mager on Unsplash)

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