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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos. By Deborah Heiligman. Illus. by LeUyen Pham

I am not a girl who loves math.  I love reading. I like Math.  Paul Erdos, however, was  a boy who looooooved math. This book made me love him and love math just a little bit more.

Notes: Presents a brief biography of mathematician Paul Erdos.

From the Publisher: Most people think of mathematicians as solitary, working away in isolation. And, it's true, many of them do. But Paul Erdos never followed the usual path. At the age of four, he could ask you when you were born and then calculate the number of seconds you had been alive in his head. But he didn't learn to butter his own bread until he turned twenty. Instead, he traveled around the world, from one mathematician to the next, collaborating on an astonishing number of publications. With a simple, lyrical text and richly layered illustrations, this is a beautiful introduction to the world of math and a fascinating look at the unique character traits that made "Uncle Paul" a great man.

Strengths: I loved how the editor and illustrator incorporated all kinds of math in the artwork of the book, including in the text.  For example, when it says Paul loved his mama to infinity, they use the infinity symbol instead of the letter. I was pleased that the author didn't try and make Paul Erdos, who was clearly eccentric and had less than stellar social skills, out to be a fabulous guy.  She wrote about his fabulousness and his foibles. Excellent end notes. A good entry level biography.

Weaknesses: This book will require some guidance for all but the most mathematically gifted young readers, and even some adults will struggle with some of the math concepts. Some reviewers have commented on font size.  This isn't something I think a lot about, so I will have to pay better attention to that. I actually see this as more appropriate for older elementary readers, although the target age is 3 and up. Unlikely to be read by those for whom it is most appropriate without someone hand selling it.

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