Score: 93/100 (9.3 out of 10)
Fun with Mathematics by Sumita Bose is a valiant, admirable and, creative effort to make mathematics fun, exciting, and accessible for those who might otherwise be scared off by this notoriously challenging subject. This book is specifically geared toward children.
This book takes numerous interesting and impressive approaches to presenting mathematics in a fresh and fascinating way. So, there's a certain uniqueness and coolness factor to it that sets it apart from other math books. Some of these unique approaches include: magic tricks related to numbers (“Mathemagic”), optical illusions related to geometry, patterns and pattern recognition, trivia (presenting as “Amazing Facts”), and even jokes!
We would have preferred if the subject of chapter 10 (“Mathematical Anxieties”) been presented right after the introduction and nearer to the beginning of the book. This is because it flows better from the introduction, following along the same idea while addressing some of the problems brought up in the introduction. We think we know why the author decided to start out with magic tricks instead: because it's the most fun, exciting, and interesting “ice breaker” they could think of. However, we'd compare this to making an omelet. Yes, you want to eat the omelet, but you need to crack the eggs first, mix them, and cook them. By presenting students who may have mathematical anxieties with the omelet first, it may not work out as well as you'd hope. You need to crack those shells first, and that comes with addressing some of the fears and anxieties that these students have. It's not the biggest deal, but it's something we definitely noticed.
Many of the magic tricks involve taking advantage of the rules of math in order to always come up with the same numbers regardless of what the other person chooses. It's actually quite mind-blowing Something else that was mind-blowing were some of the optical illusions. Even one of the simplest ones, two lines of the same length that seem to be of different lengths (the “Muller Lyer illusion”), are really trippy.
Some of the most mindboggling, thought-provoking illusions in this book are the Zollner illusion, the Kanizsa illusion, and the Hering illusion. On one hand, these seem a bit advanced for young people. On the other hand, we all had “I Spy” books growing up that wowed and fascinated us in the same way. The key to making these meaningful and applicable is having a teacher explain the nuances of these illusions and how they relate to geometry.
Now, going back to the magic tricks, some of them are a little complicated (requiring almost a dozen steps in some cases). However, they shouldn't be much of an issue for an adult to perform with some practice. It's like with any magic trick. You need to practice and know what you're doing.
The “Tricks & Shortcuts” section is incredibly ambitious and loaded with helpful, useful, and practical information for solving math problems. Now, it is a bit complicated sometimes. It really helps to have an experienced adult or a teacher explain each of these concepts to the student after going over them.
Thankfully, sections are neatly organized and easily discernible due to the larger, green font that helps each new section to stand out. Some of the tips and words of encouragement are relegated to red bubbles. Some of these are really good.
One of our favorites is:
“It's okay to not know but it's not okay to not try. There is nothing impossible to do as the word itself says I'M POSSIBLE.”
Check this out on Amazon!