Now I am always on the lookout for new children’s books and recently I came across The Boy Who Loved Math: the Improbable Life of Paul Erdos written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by LeUyen Pham.
I can honestly say that math has never been my strong point so this book is a bit of a stretch for me.
Yes, I do use it on nearly an every day basis (insert a heartfelt thanks to most of my math teachers) but it isn’t a subject I connected to in school in fact I just dreaded it. This book came home with me for several reasons:
- I have a soft spot for children’s biographies, especially well written ones
- While I don’t love math it does fascinate me that people can devote their entire life to the subject
- The illustrations include different math concepts, and
- I am trying to be good and not pass along all of my biases to my future child.
This book follows the life of mathematician Paul Erdos (pronounced AIR-dish) from being a young child with too much energy, a lack of focus to follow the rules, and a love for math that couldn’t be squelched to traveling around the world and couch surfing with different mathematicians, playing with their epsilons-what he called their children, networking mathematicians together, offering money for successfully solving unsolved math problems, and finally dying while at a math meeting.
Heiligman wrote this story after her sons started telling her about Erdos, and with her youngest not being a math fan, she wanted to know more information. She creatively ties in different math vocabulary including infinity, epsilons, prime numbers, and more. This is a book that grows with a child as you can follow a different research idea with almost every page to learn a new math concept or about another mathematician. The author’s note at the end of the book provides more insight into Erdos’ life and resources for adults to continue to find more information about him.
The illustrator Pham does a wonderful job integrating different math equations and mathematicians into nearly every page.
There are prime numbers, short hand that Erdos used, people who are influential in Erdos’ life and the math community, examples of the math problems that Erdos thought were impossible. Pham seamlessly puts equations that I have never had use for in the illustrations for kids to discover and question. After the author’s note there is an illustrator’s note which breaks down the pages math concepts or the who’s who in the pictures and her appreciation of prime numbers after illustrating this book.
This book is one I am going to have to read over and over again just to catch and maybe comprehend the math concepts in the book. I love that I can glean more information from it each time! I recommend this for 3 or 4 and up. I think it is a great introduction to higher math concepts to make them less daunting when one sees them later in high school.
The whimsical nature of the pictures make it appealing to younger audiences as well as the ease of the text while the numbers and math make it a book that grows with your child.