Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Review: The Boy Who Loved Math

Let's see, how can I put this...

This math teacher adores the new book, The Boy Who Loved Math. (!)

The whole premise is a big quirky. I mean, who writes a children's book about a Hungarian mathematician and expects to have a hit? But author Deborah Heiligman and illustrator Leuyen Pham--hilarious pictures!--dazzle me with the story of Paul Erdos.

The hugely precocious youngster, born in Budapest in 1913, can do crazy things; by age 4 he can mentally calculate the number of seconds that have passed since a visitor was born. Yet, spoiled rotten by his mother and Fraulein nanny, he does not even know how to butter his own bread.

School is not a good fit for Paul as he hates rules. His Mama, a germaphobe, is happy to keep him home where he can solve math problems all day. Mama and Fraulein continue to cut his meat, dress him, and tie his shoes.

In high school, Paul returns to school, and by 20, he is world-famous for his mathematical skills. At 21, he is invited to England, and must finally learn to butter his own bread. For the remainder of his life, he travels the world, spending about 19 hours a day doing the thing he loves: MATH.

Curricular connections (beyond the obvious, general, "math" one):
  • prime numbers--Paul is fascinated with them and a couple pages are dedicated to them
  • WWI and WWII--Paul is Jewish. In the author's notes we read, "Most of Paul's relatives were murdered in World War II."
  • biography/mathematician/Erdos number--p. 30, "If you did math with Paul you get an Erdos number of 1. If you worked with someone who worked with Paul, your Erdos number is 2. People are so proud of their Erdos numbers." Is this like the academic form of Six Degrees from Kevin Bacon?? ;)
Check out the author's website for Erdos links to explore. This is a book that will be enjoyed by preschoolers through adults. My 7 & 11yo boys and I were all entranced.

Want to read more math-y titles? Check out the gigantic list.
    Disclosure:  Any purchases made through the Amazon link will result in a small commission (at no cost to you) which will be given to Grace and Hope, providing foster care for children in China. Thanks!


    1. That looks like a great book! Thanks for sharing. I will definitely know when my math related PBs get picked up.
      Kids Math Teacher

    2. Thanks for reminding me to get this book on our reading list!

      1. I'm wondering if this book is available at the public library. To purchase it it's $94.00! Any suggestions as to where to get it cheaper?

      2. When I look on Amazon, it comes up as just over $10. Not sure where you're seeing that figure.


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