Archive for the ‘Mathematical’ Category

Review of Code Breaker, Spy Hunter, by Laurie Wallmark, art by Brooke Smart

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter

How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars

words by Laurie Wallmark
art by Brooke Smart

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021. 44 pages.
Review written May 15, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

This picture book biography features a female American code breaker, a woman I’d never heard of before – whose work was declassified in 2015, thirty-five years after her death.

Most of us have heard of Alan Turing, the British mathematician who broke the German’s Enigma code. I hadn’t realized that America was working separately on cracking the code and succeeded separately to crack the code. And the person in charge of that effort was a woman, Elizebeth Friedman.

Her work as a code breaker began long before that. She was hired in 1916 to try to find secret messages hidden in Shakespeare’s plays by Francis Bacon, whom her employer thought was the real author of the plays. She didn’t succeed in finding any, but that got her started in decoding. She and her husband were involved in the United States government’s first code-breaking unit, the Riverbank Department of Ciphers, in 1917 during World War I. They wrote pamphlets about the techniques they developed which are considered the basis for the modern science of cryptology.

She didn’t only work during war time, although she served during both wars. She also used her methods to catch smugglers during Prohibition and later captured spies.

I’ve recently reviewed books about making and breaking codes and ciphers, so I love this one about a woman who made that her life’s work. The author includes fun details such as the dinner party that Elizebeth and her husband hosted in 1938 where the guests had to solve clues to figure out where each course was being served.

Because of the top secret nature of her work, Elizebeth wasn’t celebrated for her accomplishments in her lifetime. Here’s how this picture book biography ends:

Elizebeth was a true heroine of both World War I and World War II. She is now considered one of the most gifted and influential code breakers of all time. Yet no one knew how many codes she broke, how many Nazis she stopped, how many American lives she saved . . . until now.

There’s more information at the back of the book including hints about coded messages hidden in the illustrations. This is a perfect book for kids interested in codes.

lauriewallmark.com
brooke-smart.com
abramsbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/code_breaker_spy_hunter.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of One Grain of Rice, by Demi

Saturday, May 8th, 2021

One Grain of Rice

A Mathematical Folktale

by Demi

Scholastic Press, 1997. 36 pages.
Review written May 7, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
Mathical Hall of Fame

One Grain of Rice was recently chosen for the Mathical Books Hall of Fame, so I thought I should catch up – I missed this one when it was published. Yes, I’ve heard the tale in different versions, so I knew what to expect: a lowly person outwitting an autocrat with the power of exponential growth, asking for one grain of rice the first day, twice as much the next day, and doubling each day for thirty days.

This version has Demi’s exquisite artwork. The lowly person in this story is a clever peasant girl named Rani who devises a plan to feed hungry people. I also like the way the tyrant hoarding rice reforms and everybody’s happy at the end. It’s a picture book, after all.

As for the math – there’s a chart at the back that shows how many grains of rice Rani gets on each of the thirty days, so kids can see the exponential growth. I like the way the story doesn’t pretend that someone counts out each grain (couldn’t be done in a day!), but shows progressively bigger baskets transporting the rice. On the final day, two hundred and fifty-six elephants show up on a giant fold-out page bringing the contents of four royal storehouses.

I’m afraid during a pandemic is an especially good time for kids to have a basic understanding of how exponential growth works. It starts out very small, but can grow to very big if you keep on doubling. This classic book makes the ideas memorable, understandable, and beautiful.

scholastic.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/one_grain_of_rice.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Geometry Is As Easy As Pie, by Katie Coppens

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Geometry Is As Easy As Pie

by Katie Coppens

Tumblehome, 2019. 62 pages.
Review written April 17, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

What a fun book! It covers simple geometry topics such as symmetry, tessellations, polygons, angles, parallel and perpendicular lines, and relates them all to pie.

With every single concept covered, we get the question, “How does this relate to pie?” Here’s an example:

How Does Radius Relate to Pie?

When it comes to serving only one piece of pie, the first cut is typically from the center point of the pie to the crust. This cut represents the radius of the pie. That cut, like the radius, could be made in any direction to the circumference, as long as it is from the center point of the pie to the crust.

Here’s another such question with an especially good answer:

How Do Geometric Formulas Relate to Pie?

Suppose someone asks you how to make a pie and you just read them a recipe out of this book. Will you really understand pie-making as well as if you’d actually made the pie yourself? In the same way, rather than just memorizing geometric formulas, it’s important to work with and understand the mathematical ideas behind the formulas. In this book, the thinking behind mathematical concepts is explained first, before we give you formulas. In the same way, we hope you actually try to make the pies you read about in this book!

The book is illustrated with many, many photos of luscious-looking pies, and yes, a variety of recipes are included. I’m a little ashamed to say I did not try any of them out. But I may have drooled over the photos.

katiecoppens.com
tumblehomebooks.org

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/geometry_is_as_easy_as_pie.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum, by Natasha Yim, illustrated by Violet Kim

Monday, March 29th, 2021

Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum

by Natasha Yim
illustrated by Violet Kim

Charlesbridge, 2020. 32 pages.
Review written March 23, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s another wonderful book for exploring math with young children in the “Storytelling Math” series from Charlesbridge. It’s perfect, in fact, for my new Sondermath page.

In Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum, Ma Ma and Ba Ba are taking Luna and her two brothers to a dim sum restaurant for a special birthday lunch. They order two baskets of three pork buns each, and plan to eat two each.

Then Luna accidentally drops one on the floor. So they have five pork buns. How will they divide them up? Or should someone get more than everyone else? After all, Luna is the birthday girl.

This kind of problem – dividing up food – is near to kids’ hearts. And it’s told in a story form, so their attention won’t lag.

There are notes in the back about Dim Sum and the Chinese Zodiac, with ideas for exploring the math.

I’m enjoying this series, where kids engage with math concepts in real-life ways.

natashayim.com
violet-kim.format.com
terc.edu
charlesbridge.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/lunas_yum_yum_dim_sum.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Recommended Math-Related Books for All Ages

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

I recently did a talk for a local group about math-related books I recommend for all age levels, and I made a long list of such books.

I decided to make this list a page on my website, because these weren’t the first people to ask me about this. And I’ll add to the list when I encounter more mathy titles that I love. I’ve already added a few after doing the talk.

Philosophy: Math at home should be nothing but FUN. Math in books should be nothing but FUN.
I look for exploring, discovery, and playfulness.

I haven’t reviewed all the books, but I’ll put a link to the review for those I have.

Earliest Learners
Goodnight, Numbers, by Danica McKellar
Crash! Boom! A Math Tale, by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Chris Chatterton
Stack the Cats, by Susie Ghahremani
One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller, by Kate Read
Quack and Count, by Keith Baker

Early Numeracy

Counting
The Doorbell Rang, by Pat Hutchins
The Cookie Fiasco, by Dan Santat
How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti, illustrated by Yancey Labat
8: An Animal Alphabet, by Elisha Cooper
Count the Monkeys, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Math Fables, by Greg Yang, illustrated by Heather Cahoon
100 Bugs! A Counting Book, by Kate Narita, pictures by Suzanne Kaufman
Monkey Time, by Michael Hall
Anno’s Counting Book, by Mitsumasa Anno
Anno’s Counting House, by Mitsumasa Anno

Comparing
Lia and Luís: Who Has More? by Ana Crespo, illustrated by Giiovan Medeiros
Balancing Act, by Ellen Stoll Walsh
Who Eats First? by Ae-hae Yoon, illustrated by Hae-won Yang
How Long Is a Whale? by Alison Limentani
How Much Does a Ladybug Weigh? by Alison Limentani

Critical Thinking
How Many? A Different Kind of Counting Book, by Christopher Danielson
Which Is Round? Which Is Bigger? by Mineko Mamada
Pattern Fish, by Trudy Harris, illustrated by Anne Canevari Green
Sam Sorts, by Marthe Jocelyn
I Know Numbers, by Taro Gomi
Bedtime Math, by Laura Overdeck
Bedtime Math: This Time It’s Personal, by Laura Overdeck
Bedtime Math: The Truth Comes Out, by Laura Overdeck

Young Elementary School Math

Counting/Estimation/Number Sense
Everybody Counts, by Kristin Roskifte
A Million Dots, by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Mike Reed
Great Estimations, by Bruce Goldstone
Greater Estimations, by Bruce Goldstone

Mapping and Measuring
Mapping Sam, by Joyce Hesselberth
Millions to Measure, by David M. Schwartz, pictures by Steven Kellogg

Addition and Subtraction
Mice Mischief: Math Facts in Action, by Caroline Stills, illustrated by Judith Rossell
Do Not Open This Math Book, by Danica McKellar

Multiplication and Division
The Best of Times, by Greg Tang
The Times Machine, by Danica McKellar

Fractions
Piece = Part = Portion: Fractions = Decimals = Percents, by Scott Gifford, photographs by Shmuel Thaler
Fractions in Disguise, by Edward Einhorn, illustrated by David Clark
Fraction Frenzy, by Rob Colson

More Math-Related Fun
Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature, by Sarah Campbell
I See a Pattern Here, by Bruce Goldstone
That’s a Possibility! by Bruce Goldstone
Infinity and Me, by Kate Hosford, illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska
Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math, by Rajani LaRocca, illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan
Math at the Art Museum, by Group Majoongmul, illustrated by Yun-ju Kim

Prime Numbers
You Can Count on Monsters, by Richard Evan Schwartz

Number Facts
A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars, by Seth Fishman, illustrated by Isabel Greenberg
Just a Second, by Steve Jenkins
It’s a Numbers Game! Basketball, by James Buckley, Jr.
If…, by David J. Smith, illustrated by Steve Adams
If America Were a Village, by David J. Smith, illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong
Just the Right Size: Why Big Animals Are Big and Little Animals Are Little, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton

Critical Thinking
Which One Doesn’t Belong? by Christopher Danielson
Cao Chong Weighs an Elephant, by Songju Ma Daemicke, illustrated by Christina Wald
Anno’s Magic Seeds, by Mitsumasa Anno
Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar, by Mitsumasa Anno
How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit on a Plane? by Laura Overdeck
If Dogs Were Dinosaurs, by David M. Schwartz, illustrated by James Warhola

Picture Book Biographies
The Boy Who Loved Math, by Deborah Heiligman
Nothing Stopped Sophie, by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, by Amy Alznauer, illustrated by Daniel Miyares
Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly with Winifred Conkling, illustrated by Laura Freeman
Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, by Joseph D’Agnese, illustrated by John O’Brien

Upper Elementary/Middle School

What’s the Point of Math? by Ben Ffrancon Davis
Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail, by Danica McKellar
Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss, by Danica McKellar

Codes and Ciphers
Create Your Own Secret Language, by David J. Peterson
Can You Crack the Code? A Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography, by Ella Schwartz
Code Cracking for Kids with 21 Codes and Ciphers, by Jean Daigneau

Building and Making
Calling All Minds, by Temple Grandin
Girls Who Build, by Katie Hughes
How to Be a Coder, by Kiki Prottsman

Critical Thinking
Really Big Numbers, by Richard Evan Schwartz
The Cat in Numberland, by Ivar Ekeland, illustrated by John O’Brien
Anno’s Hat Tricks, by Akihiro Nozaki and Mitsumasa Anno

Children’s Novels
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure, by Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Secret Coders (Graphic Novel Series), by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes
Numbed! by David Lubar

Biographies
Changing the Equation: 50+ US Black Women in STEM, by Tonya Bolden
Hidden Figures: Young Readers’ Edition, by Margot Lee Shetterly

High School Math
Hot X: Algebra Exposed, by Danica McKellar
Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape, by Danica McKellar

For Adults

Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences, by John Allen Paulos
How to Lie with Statistics, by Darrell Huff
Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception, by Charles Seife
How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics, by Eugenia Cheng
Here’s Looking at Euclid, by Alex Bellos
Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
The Numbers Behind Numb3rs: Solving Crime with Mathematics, by Keith Devlin and Gary Lorden
Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World, by Matt Parker
How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter About Visual Information, by Alberto Cairo
How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, by Jordan Ellenberg

Stories of People
In Code, by Sarah Flannery, with David Flannery
Bringing Down the House, by Ben Mezrich
Busting Vegas, by Ben Mezrich
Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly
Born on a Blue Day, by Daniel Tammet
Struck by Genius, by Jason Padgett
Count Down: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World’s Toughest Math Competition, by Steve Olson

Novels
Beyond the Limit, by Joan Spicci
The Sand-Reckoner, by Gillian Bradshaw

Coloring Books
Patterns of the Universe, by Alex Bellos and Edmund Harriss
Visions of the Universe, by Alex Bellos and Edmunc Harriss
The Golden Ratio Coloring Book, by Steve Richards

Web Resources
Bedtime Math: bedtimemath.org
Mathical Book Prize: mathicalbooks.org
Math Book Magic: mathbookmagic.com
Talking Math With Your Kids: talkingmathwithkids.com
Mathematical Knitting: sonderbooks.com/sonderknitting

Review of Lia & Luís: Who Has More?

Sunday, March 14th, 2021

Lia & Luís

Who Has More?

by Ana Crespo
illustrated by Giovana Medeiros

Charlesbridge, 2020. 32 pages.
Review written February 26, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2021 Mathical Book Prize Winner, ages 2-4

This picture book from Charlesbridge’s “Storytelling Math” series is a lovely way to get small children thinking about quantity, and it’s cross-cultural, too.

Luís often brags to his sister Lia. When they each choose their favorite Brazilian snack from their Papai’s store, Luis is quick to brag that he has more. His bag is bigger.

But what if you count what they have? What if you count something different?

When Lia finally comes up with the idea to measure the treats, she can make a strong case that she has more – and a way to make them equal.

This puts the simple idea of measurement and quantity into a situation that small children will find compelling. Because you always want to have more than your brother. It’s an important early math concept, and it’s a good story.

anacrespobooks.com
giovanamedeiros.com
charlesbridge.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/lia_and_luis.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Seven Golden Rings, by Rajani LaRocca, illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Seven Golden Rings

A Tale of Music and Math

by Rajani LaRocca
illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan

Lee & Low Books, 2020. 40 pages.
Review written February 6, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2021 Mathical Book Prize Winner, ages 8-10

I recently did a class about books for all ages that include fun math ideas, and discovered this book a day too late to include it, but this is a fun story that tells about the binary number system in a clever way.

In ancient India, Bhagat is going to the capital to audition for the royal troupe, but all he has for the journey is one rupee and a chain of seven golden rings, the last of his mother’s wedding necklace.

He finds a place to stay in the capital city, and they will charge him one gold ring for a night’s stay. Bhagat doesn’t know how many days it will take him to be called to audition for the king. He doesn’t want to pay all seven rings if he gets called sooner.

Then he finds a goldsmith who will break a ring for him to separate it from the chain – but he will charge one rupee to break one link, and Bhagat only has one rupee.

The clever solution is that he has the goldsmith break the third link in the chain. Then that ring is separate, and he’s left with two chains, one with two links and the other with four. He is able to get the exact amount owed each day from one to seven days.

There’s an unexpected end to the story, and then an Author’s note explaining the binary number system and how it relates to the story.

I love this simple and visual approach to teaching binary! The story that goes with it will make it all the more memorable, and I love that the author set up a situation where this idea really did solve a problem.

rajanilarocca.com
archanasreenivasan.com
leeandlow.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/7_golden_rings.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Can You Crack the Code? by Ella Schwartz, illustrated by Lily Williams

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Can You Crack the Code?

A Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography

by Ella Schwartz
illustrated by Lily Williams

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. 118 pages.
Review written December 14, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#6 General Children’s Nonfiction
2021 Mathical Honor Book, Grades 6-8

I’ve always thought codes and ciphers are fascinating, from the time I was a kid right up to the present when I made some videos showing how to make interesting ciphers using mathematical concepts.

When I made the videos last Spring when the library was closed for the pandemic, I didn’t find too many current books on making codes, but that situation has been remedied. This book is a nice solid selection to fill in that gap. Written for elementary to middle school kids, it gives a history of encoded messages along with explanations of ciphers and codes the reader can use.

Each chapter has a message to decrypt, and the book ends with a message for the reader to solve and email the author if they figure it out. A few clues are given, and it’s a nicely appropriate historical code used.

The book starts with steganography – hiding a message in some way – and the Caesar cipher and continues with things like Benedict Arnold’s book cipher and Thomas Jefferson’s wheel cipher up through a puzzle encoded in a statue in front of CIA headquarters and the use of prime numbers in computer security.

Even when they get deep into the history of clandestine messages, they do give the readers chances to crack the codes.

There’s plenty here to get kids intrigued, and one thing I love about code-making is there are lots of jumping-off points from this book.

ellasbooks.com
lilywilliamsart.com
Bloomsbury.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/can_you_crack_the_code.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Mathematical Colors and Codes, Episode Six — Binary Codes and Booktalks

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

Episode Six of Mathematical Colors and Codes, my Virtual Program Series for the library is up!

Episode Six now looks at the Base Two number system, binary, and puts that into a code. To finish up the series, I talk about more books that play with mathematical ideas.

Like all the other videos in the series, this one has a downloadable coloring page. This one has a chart for a Binary Code.

Here’s this week’s video:

Here are links to the entire Mathematical Colors and Codes series:

Episode One, Prime Factorization
Episode Two, Prime Factorization Codes
Episode Three, Nondecimal Bases
Episode Four, Color Codes with Nondecimal Bases
Episode Five, More Codes with Nondecimal Bases
Episode Six, Binary Codes and Booktalks

Mathematical Colors and Codes, Episode Five — More Codes with Nondecimal Bases

Monday, July 20th, 2020

Episode Five of Mathematical Colors and Codes, my Virtual Program Series for the library is up!

Episode Five looks at more ways you can use nondecimal bases to make coded messages.

This video, like all the others has a downloadable coloring page. This one has charts for a Base Six Code and a Base Five Code.

Here’s this week’s video:

Here are links to the entire Mathematical Colors and Codes series:

Episode One, Prime Factorization
Episode Two, Prime Factorization Codes
Episode Three, Nondecimal Bases
Episode Four, Color Codes with Nondecimal Bases
Episode Five, More Codes with Nondecimal Bases
Episode Six, Binary Codes and Booktalks