My Review of The Book of Magic Numbers by Sarah Sophia Boros
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A great many kids have problems with math. I was one of them. I was a prodigious reader, but didn't know from multiplication or division and didn't really want to. I was finally persuaded to learn my multiplication tables by being placed in front of a blackboard in my apartment, repeatedly drilled, and whacked on my hand with a ruler when I made a mistake. Yeah, yeah, I know. Boo hoo for me. But I finally learned to multiply and divide.
I've looked back on that time in my life over the decades and still wonder why I disliked math so. In high school, when I applied myself, I had no problems. A's in algebra and geometry (didn't take trig). What was going on in my eight-year-old head?
I suspect I fought math because the process of teaching it is very dry and mechanistic. Most learning is by rote, little attempt is made to tie your lessons to real life situations or challenges, and kids have short attention spans. Or, as in my case, resist mightily pulling their nose out of a book.
The Book of Magic Numbers provides a solution to the above problem. The story revolves around eight-year-old Sarah Sophia and her inability to connect arithmetic to anything useful in her life. Her irritation with the Universe of Math is summed up in a cry to the heavens that I, and many others, have uttered since time immemorial: "What are all these numbers good for, anyway?”
Heaven responds in the person of Plurity, a numbers fairy (no, you cynic, not those numbers) and her sidekick Lex, a magical but somewhat vain unicorn. Plurity takes our heroine on a numeric odyssey that begins with 0 and ends with 12. Along the way, each number's particular power is explored in a fun, interesting and informative way that always ties to real world situations and challenges.
Author Sarah Boros is herself eight years old. Her prose for someone so young is remarkably mature. If you have a child who's struggling with math, or shows an interest in exploring its boundaries further, buy them this book. The Book of Magic Numbers offers a unique peer-learning opportunity (I wonder if there isn't a website opportunity here). I wish Numbers had been around when I was a kid. I might have escaped that damn ruler.
By the way, many of you adults (and I still include myself), find ourselves math challenged from time to time. You know who you are. You'll find the book interesting, useful, and informative as well.