My husband, mother in law, and three year old son had a conversation last weekend. My mother in law was explaining to my son that her golden birthday happened long ago. My husband mentioned that his golden birthday happened when he turned five. This got my son’s attention. He looked at his dad and said
“Five is a prime number.”
And then, as you would expect, his father and grandmother fell on the floor.
My son is, no doubt, a smarty pants but prime numbers are beyond his understanding. He got this vocabulary from a book that was bought on a whim that he and I have fallen in love with over the past few days.
The book is called “The Boy Who Loved Math” by Deborah Heiligman. If you look it up on Amazon, the age range for this book is 3-8 years, which seems wide, but I think this book could appeal to your family. You know I’m a little dinky blog,no one is asking me to review this book for you, out of the trenches of my teacher heart I am trying to convince you that you need to give this book a shot with your kids.
The Boy Who Loved Math is the biography of Paul Erdos who was a brilliant mathematician and a unique human being. He did not fit into the world in the traditional sense but still found success and love through his passion and extraordinary talent for math.
The author and illustrator have woven math into the words and images into this book beautifully. The story moves along quickly but is still quite long for a picture book. The illustrations are detailed and gorgeous. The story makes you love this man.
One of my favorite things about teaching was starting students off with an idea, a question, or a book and seeing what direction it would send them in. This book is full of promise for that sort of learning.
As I said, my son is three. His primary interest in the book has been the illustrations. He is interested in watching Paul transform from a little boy into an old man. This has sparked conversations about youth and old age and what makes something new turn old.
While I really like letting a child decide what interests them in a book, I want to share with you some of the avenues I can see this book taking a child down:
Number recognition, infinity, prime numbers, negative numbers, difficulty following rules and behaving, school, missing parents when they go to work, reading a calendar, geometry, being different from others, difficulty doing daily skills (Paul didn’t know how to do everyday things like butter his bread), aging, biographies, friendship, geography, personal interests, and of course the man himself- Paul Erdos.
This book is a goldmine for creating inquiry based learning with your child and honestly, with you too. As soon as I finished reading this book, I had to get online to learn more about Paul. And I do not enjoy math.
If you haven’t heard of this book and are looking for something new with your child, try it out. Your child may understand all of it. Your child, like mine, may grab onto only a few parts. I’m fairly certain, though, that they will end up with more knowledge and curiosity than they had before you read it.
If you have read this book, I would love to know what your experience has been. If you haven’t, do you think you are going to check it out? Do you have a book that has spun into a whole new area of interest for your child? Let me know!
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