Monday, December 28, 2009

Winter break suggestions

Winter break is a great time for students to discover the joys of recreational math reading. Here are some suggestions which can delight students from middle school through the rest of their lives. The books below are classics. Many should be available in public libraries and/or inexpensively in used copies on the Internet.

Mathematical People and More Mathematical People have many delightful stories of the lives of noted 20th century mathematicians. Anyone who thinks mathematicians lead boring lives is in for a surprise when they read these interviews. Magic card tricks, chess puzzles, juggling, trampolines, and Mad Magazine all figured into the lives and mathematical development of one or more of these colorful characters.

Richard Feynman was a physicist, but his funny autobiographical works (What do you care what other people think? and Surely you are joking, Mr. Feynman.) make many references to his unorthodox mathematical education.

Raymond Smullyan's mathematical logic puzzle books (What is the name of this book? and The Lady or The Tiger and many more treasures along those lines) are also great fun.

Martin Gardner's Aha! Insight and Aha! Gotcha! books are great "entry-level drugs" into his abundant collection of recreational math books. You can see our well-worn copy above--the wear and tear reflects its extensive reading and re-reading over the years.

Alexandra Schmidt, math teacher and MATHCOUNTS coach at Hebrew Academy of the Capital District, recommends The Man Who Counted.

If your library uses the Dewey system, try browsing around 510 or 793. If your library uses the Library of Congress numbering system, try browsing around the QA93 section.

You are likely to find some real treats.

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