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Maths: A Book You Can Count On Paperback – Illustrated, 19 Jul 2010
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An exciting new title for younger readers from Basher, who gave us a cool new spin on science
About the Author
Artist and designer Simon Basher has fun playing in the world of contemporary character design. Inspired by a love of simple line work and a rich colour palette, his characters fill the gap between edgy Manga and the cuteness of Hello Kitty!
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It covers a range of mathematical topics: starting with the basics, such as numbers and units what they actually mean; covering sums, multiplication and x values; then onto shapes and solids, including pi and finally covering the meaning and use of data, such as graphs and charts.
A very useful reference then, I can see my children using this often, as it covers these concepts in a fun, easy-to-understand way and features some characters to help this along, together with some historical facts and figures. Highly recommended!
The text is on the left hand side and there is a bright colourful drawing on the right hand side. The drawings are simple and greatly help to illustrate the concept being discussed on the opposing page. The text is very well written in a punchy style that reads more like 9 years+ comic fiction rather than a maths textbook, but it still manages to get across to a child a good, basic understanding of concepts that many adults don't understand, or if they do understand, would be very hard pressed to explain so succintly.
Each mathematical concept is introduced as a "first person character" that the reader can visualise. So you'll get something like "I'm Pi and I'm so amazing and wonderful... etc". At first this might seem a little patronising or condescending, or trying too hard to appeal to kids, but ultimately this approach did actually work with my 9 year old son, so the proof, as they say, was in the pudding. My son has enjoyed reading this book, and it has opened his eyes to a whole range of mathematical ideas, and has put into clearer focus other things that he learned at school.
However, I have to be strict with this book and mark it down to 4 stars because the book lacks the depth of examples that we all know are necessary to ingrain maths concepts into a human brain. It is slightly frustrating to have such a fantastic introduction to maths, and yet little depth beyond that. Ideally this book should be followed by a much bigger book written in an equally punchy and accessible style but taking each of the concepts to a greater depth and giving more examples of calculations using the concepts. I very much hope that this series is expanded along those lines.
For example, there's a reference to the Pythagoras 'sons of the squaw on the hippopotamus' joke. The joke is completely inappropriate to this age range and it can only serve to confuse when presented in this context. What was wrong with breaking Pythagoras down into the 3:4:5 squared representation that usually serves as an introduction?
However, there is some good teaching in there - volume is introduced as an extension of the concept of area in a practical way that children can relate to.
I'm not sure about the full page drawings of characters such as Volume, the rock chick. Personalising the ideas in this way doesn't simplify anything, but only introduces irrelevance.
Parents may find themselves taking a sneak peek at the Glossary to clarify their own understanding and this is probably the most useful part of the book.
Any book that engages children with mathematics is worthwhile and this is worth trying for that alone, in that it is visually appealing, but use with caution and check your own understanding. You may find yourself having to offer additional explanations to children and wishing you hadn't started ....
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