Posts Tagged ‘mathematics’

Book review: Is God a Mathematician?

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

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Author:Mario Livio
Reading Level (Conceptual):Sophisticated readers
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 12 and up
Genre:Non-fiction, biography
Year of publication:2009

I never thought I'd get my fill of non-fiction books about mathematicians. And this is not really a bad one. Maybe it was the silly title and the author's transition from that religious question to the more chicken-and-egg question: Do humans invent mathematics or do they discover mathematical principles?

Guess my question is, "Why do I care?"

Anyway, I found Livio's discussion of the achievements and ideas of the Greeks, including Pythagoras, very interesting.

-- Emily
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Book review: Gifted

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

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Author:Nikita Lalwani
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:Fiction, parenting

Unless you have been through it yourself, it is probably impossible to understand how challenging it is to parent a gifted child.

The gifted child in this story, the daughter of two immigrants from India, is identified in kindergarten by a teacher who seems not to understand that being a gifted child might not be an unmitigated blessing and that raising a gifted child may not be as easy as it would seem.

Rumika Vasi's father determines to honor her giftedness by yanking her out of the public school and forcing her to concentrate almost entirely on mathematics. Her mother is overwhelmed and threatened by British culture and defers to her husband.

By the time Rumika lives up to her father's dream -- being accepted to Oxford at 14 -- Rumika feels isolated, deeply resentful of her intellectual gifts, almost -- determined to throw them away.

The book comes off, a bit, as an indictment of raising a gifted child as an immigrant parent. But I think that parenting a child who is smarter than you are is difficult in any culture. Being culturally displaced may make that even more difficult, perhaps. But being the parent of any child who is vastly different from his or her peers is always going to be hugely challenging.

My review of another incisive novel about parenting a gifted child can be found here: excerpt.

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Gifted

Short story: The Mathematician

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

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The Story Space radio program played BD Wong’s rendition of the Daniel Kehlmann short story, The Mathematician, last night. Listening, riveted, I was severely slowed in my dinner preparations.

Anyone who asked Professor Gauss about his early memories was told that such things didn’t exist. Memories, unlike engravings or letters, were undated. One came upon things in one’s memory that one sometimes was able, on reflection, to arrange in the right order.

He remembered that he had started to count before he could talk. Once his father had made an error when he was counting out his monthly pay, and this had made Gauss start to cry. As soon as his father caught the mistake, he immediately fell quiet again.

Most of his later memories were of slowness. For a long time he had believed that people were acting or following some ritual that always obliged them to pause before they spoke or did anything. Sometimes he managed to accommodate himself to them, but then it became unendurable again. Only gradually did he come to understand that they needed these pauses. Why did they think so slowly, so laboriously and hard? As if their thoughts were issuing from some machine that first had to be cranked and then put into gear, instead of being living things that moved of their own accord. He noticed that people got angry when he didn’t stop himself. He did his best, but often it didn’t work.

The story goes on to describe how, at 8 years old, Gauss was discovered by his elementary school teacher to be — a genius — and transferred to high school, where Gauss discovered that students don’t think notably faster than in elementary.

The story reminded me of a recent conversation between two of my friends. One is a college student. The other has become \”certifiably crazy\” (CC), a ward of the state. The college student moaned, \”There are so many stupid people at school. SO many.\” \”Remember,\” responded CC. \”Fifty-percent of all people are of below average intelligence.\” \”And that’s why,\” CC added, \”I had to go crazy. I really can’t cope with all those very slow people.\”

I’m going to present both M and CC with a copy of Daniel Kehlmann’s book, Measuring the World.