Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Joy of X

by Steven Strogatz

This is a fun, understandable (to a point) book about math.  Before I became a science teacher I considered teaching math or English.  I rejected English because I wasn't sure I had the ability to encourage writing skills.  I can usually tell what's well-written and what's not, but how do I instruct a student to improve his writing?  I took one look at the Theory of Math classes required to teach math and shook my head.  If Strogatz was the teacher of those classes I may have reconsidered.

When I read a book like this I enjoy the feeling of grasping concepts presented in a 'new-to-me' way.  Unfortunately, I don't hold on to those concepts for long and I'm not able to discuss them in any knowledgeable manner.  So writing this book review is harder than writing about fiction.

There is a story line, of sorts.  Strogatz starts with a description of numbers that we learn about in kindergarten - real numbers that made sense to me.  I understood for the first time that numbers are much like the science words my students complained about learning.  A number is a shorthand way to express in one symbol what might take a whole phrase or sentence to explain otherwise.

We are led from what we understand to what flew over our heads in math class.  Imaginary numbers never made sense to me until reading this book.  The day I read about imaginary numbers I talked with my daughter who is taking Calculus 3 in college.  She was complaining about imaginary numbers.  I laughed at the timing.

When you're in a book store pick this book up and read through the chapter titles.  Strogatz is very creative both with his chapter titles and his presentation.  As I read The Joy of X (cute title, huh?) I thought of my math friends and how much they would enjoy this book.  Yes, Raidergirl, I thought of you!  Even if you're not a 'math geek' you may want to excite your synaptic firings by reading an interesting approach to math.  Hmmm, I wonder if I've pushed back the onset of Alzheimer's.

One other good thing - Strogatz talked about several different fictional books that I wrote down.  The first I want to get my hands on is The Housekeeper and the Professor.  Has anyone read it?

 ** I received a  copy of The Joy of X  from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. 


raidergirl3 said...

Very cool! Love the title, and love that you thought of me. Oh, I'm a math geek!

You *must* read The Housekeeper and the Professor. It is about so much more than math. The math is just a bonus. It was one of my favorite books the year I read it.

Booklogged said...

I hope you don't feel bad about the math geek thing. What do you call a non-math teacher who reads a math book? Beyond geeky?! lol

So glad to get your opinion about The Housekeeper & the Professor. Looking forward to reading it even more now.

Ryan said...

I wish thi book was around when I was in school. I'm terrible at math and I blame terrible teachers for my ineptitude because I still find math fascinating despite my lack of understanding.

Thoughts of Joy said...

I read The Housekeeper and the Professor! I rated it a 4/5! I used to teach 6th grade math and science, but am a reading interventionist for K-4 now. While I love my job, I miss teaching math immensely!