Wonders to Inspire Teachers & Students
someone who last took a math class nearly 30 years ago as a high
school junior, I have to confess that this wasn’t the kind of
title that I’d normally pull from the shelves. Math was definitely
my least favorite subject, and there was little effort made by
the faculty at my small private high school in Brooklyn to make
the topics engaging, accessible, compelling, or in any way relevant
to our daily life’s experience. I wasn’t very good at math, and
at no point in my high school career was I made to feel inadequate
that math was my weak point.
In fact, one of the first questions that I asked at my Barnard
College admissions interview was whether or not I’d have to take
a math class to graduate. (For the record, the answer then was
no‚ students are no longer permitted to be as wobbly in quantitative
skills as I was).
And that, according to Alfred S. Posamentier, Professor of Mathematics
Education and Dean of the School of Education of the City College
of the City University of New York‚ and author of this book‚ is
part of the problem with how math continues to be taught.
I meet someone socially and they discover that my field of interest
is mathematics, I am usually confronted with the proud exclamation:
“Oh, I was always terrible in math!” For no other subject in the
curriculum would an adult be so proud of failure. “Having been
weak in mathematics is a badge of honor,” Dr. Posamentier writes.
Guilty as charged. Sad to say, I still am one of those adults
who has little shame about admitting how challenging it is to
calculate a restaurant tip, or who nonchalantly skips over a newspaper
or magazine article that deals with a mathematical topic.
At first glance, in fact, I wasn’t even sure I understood what
the section headings meant, let alone what the topics referred
to. Granted, I am not the target audience. Math teachers (and
teachers teaching math at the lower grade levels), and by extension
their students, are the ones for whom Dr. Posamentier is writing.
I would imagine that keeping a copy of this book in a high school
math class would go a long way towards dispelling the math phobia
that still afflicts so many in my generation.
is my inherent belief that the root of the problem lies in the
inherent unpopularity of mathematics,” Dr. Posamentier says in
his preface. “We must finally demonstrate the inherent beauty
of mathematics, so that those students who do not have a daily
need for it can be led to appreciate it for its beauty and not
only for its usefulness. This, then, is the objective of the book:
to provide sufficient evidence of the beauty of mathematics through
many examples in a variety of its branches. “I would imagine that
this book, with its clear examples and illustrations on mathematical
subjects would offer a fairly persuasive argument for Dr. Posamentier’s
point that mathematics can be elegant and amazing.
Topics range from arithmetic, like the Russian Peasant’s Method
of Multiplication, The Unusual Number 9 or The Fabulous Fibonacci
Numbers to algebra, like The Mysterious Number 22, or Using Algebra
to Establish Arithmetic Shortcuts, and even geometry, with The
Golden Rectangle or The Nine-Point Circle.
There’s plenty more: a chapter on what Dr. Posamentier calls Mathematical
Paradoxes, like the Deceptive Border or Limits with Understanding,
or a chapter on Counting and Probability that explores such topics
as Birthday Matches and Anticipating Heads and Tails.
I am sure this would be a valuable, useful and inspiring addition
to any math teacher’s repertoire (and, of course a turn-on for
those lower grade teachers who still need to be convinced of math’s
Wonders To Inspire Teachers & Studnets
Alfred S. Posamentier, Ph.D.
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 1588, New York, NY 10159.
Tel: (212) 477-5600. Fax: (212) 477-5893. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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of the publisher. © 2003.