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Molly and the Mathematical Mystery

Eugenia Cheng is a mathematician, author, baker, and concert pianist (you can find out more about her by reading our interview with her from issue 09). Aleksandra Artymowska is an author and illustrator of children’s books. Molly and the Mathematical Mystery (Amazon UK, Waterstones) is an interactive children’s book that encourages the reader to solve clues to follow the adventure.

Style

Molly and the Mathematical Mystery is a beautiful book. Its pages are large, and full of wonderful illustrations. On each page, the reader is encouraged to help Molly continue on her adventure by finding information under flaps, opening flaps to change available routes, or even using the flaps to construct a path for Molly that takes her out of the page.

Control

Molly’s adventure leads the reader through a range of mathematical ideas, including fractals, symmetry, and Latin squares. The reader is encouraged to interact with the book to experiment with these ideas, then more information about each one is given at the end of the book.

Damage

The use of flaps that can be lifted, moved, and rearranged really sets this apart from other children’s maths books. I was particularly impressed with the page on which I had to attached the flaps together to make cubes that Molly could walk around to find her path to the next page.

Aggression

I’d recommend this book to anyone with a child or young relative. There’s lots to enjoy in this book for children of any age: younger children can interact with the book by lifting the flaps to look for clues, while older readers could engage with the mathematical ideas and puzzles spread throughout the book.

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How to Make the World Add Up

Tim Harford is an economics and journalist, and the presenter of More or Less and How to Vaccinate the World on BBC Radio 4. His latest book, How to Make the World Add Up (Amazon UK, Waterstones, Maths Gear (signed)), is a book about making sense of statistical claims about the world around us.

Style

Fans of Tim Harford will be unsurprised to find that How to Make the World Add Up is an enjoyable read: it has the same informative and entertaining tone as his other books and programmes.

Control

How to Make the World Add Up puts its points across very clearly, and the ideas contained in each chapter are made more concrete through anecdotes about situations where the topic of the chapter was relevant.

Damage

Statistics are often misused. As the introduction of this book points out, there is a danger that this can lead to a general distrust of numbers in the news. In the current times, however, it is increasingly important that we can trust statistical claims about virus spread and vaccines, while being distrustful of incorrect claims. This books aims to show the reader ways in which they can work out what to trust, while remaining sceptical when claims are too-good-to-be-true (or too-bad-to-be-true). In a world where mathematical and statistical claims are so much more visible than we are used to, this is a particularly important book.

Aggression

I would very strongly recommend this book to fans of More or Less, as if you enjoy it then you’ll certainly be a enjoy this book. If you’re not a fan of More or Less, then reading this book might lead you to becoming a fan of More or Less.

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Geometry Juniors

Ed Southall is a teacher and geometry puzzle fan. His latest book, Geometry Juniors (Amazon UK, Waterstones, the Mathematical Association), is a book of prompts and puzzles aimed at a young reader.

Style

Geometry Juniors contains a large collection of geometry prompts to encourage discussions and problem solving. Each prompt features a picture of a geometry situation, some questions you might pose about the situation, and some delightful illustrations (by Nicole Lane). The introduction of the book suggests these could be used to start conversations between a child and a parent or teacher.

Control

People who follow Ed on Twitter or have worked though his Geometry Snacks books (co-authored with Vincent Pantaloni) will know that Ed has great taste in geometry puzzles. This shines through in this book, with some really great situations to get you thinking. Many of the prompts have been carefully selected to catch some common misconceptions, and to lead the reader to question these. I’m a particular fan of the coordinates section, in which many of the prompts suggest adding a point to make a certain shape before suggesting that there may actually be multiple different points that could’ve been added.

Damage

This is a very good book for anyone looking for mathematical tasks to do with a child, and the tasks have obviously been very carefully designed to promote deep mathematical thinking. Many of the tasks lead to open ended exploration, and encourage the reader to keep asking “what if”. It’s the kind of book that I wouldn’t be surprised to find a future mathematician citing as the book that made them fall in love with maths.

Aggression

I’d highly recommend this book to teachers or parents looking to engage someone in mathematical conversations and to encourage mathematical thinking and problem solving.

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Mathematical Adventures!

Ioanna Georgiou is a mathematics teacher from London and Asuka Young is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. Their book, Mathematical Adventures! (Amazon UK, Waterstones, Tarquin), is a children’s book the takes the reader on a journey through the history of maths.

Style

Mathematical Adventures! takes the reader through the development of maths in a series of colourful and well illustrated pages. It covers the development of numbers and algebra and some famous historical maths problems, before catching up with more recent maths such as differently sized infinities and Cantor’s diagonal argument. It encourages the reader to stop and think about problems themselves throughout the book.

Control

The book contains very clear and readable explanations that would be very suitable for a parent reading with a child.

Damage

This book doesn’t shy away from difficult ideas, such as the existence of different sizes of infinity, and offers an excellent opportunity for a child to meet interesting bits of maths that would often be deemed “too difficult” for a few more years. An adult reader who is keen on maths (the kind of person who is likely to be reading Chalkdust!) will probably be familiar with the majority of the ideas in this book, but it would be a great way to rediscover and share these ideas with a younger relative.

Aggression

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something to read with a younger relative. I’ll be saving my copy for a few years until me niece is old enough to read it with me.

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Book of the Year 2019

A few weeks ago, we announced the 9 book shortlist for the 2019 Chalkdust Book of the Year. In this post, we announce the winner of this award.

We will be awarding two prizes: the Chalkdust Book of the Year (as chosen by our editors), and the Chalkdust Readers’ Choice (as voted for by our readers).

Chalkdust Book of the Year 2019

We found picking a winner of this award really difficult, as all the books on the shortlist were deserving of the prize (obviously, as if not they wouldn’t have made the shortlist). The one thing that set the winner apart from the other books was its appeal to both mathematicians and non-mathematicians. And the winner is:

The Maths of Life and Death

Kit Yates

This book (Amazon UK, Waterstones), as its title suggests, is all about the maths of life and death. It looks at the maths related to law, biology, medicine, the spread of diseases, and many more areas. Kit takes you through these areas with a series of interesting and well-written stories.

You can read our full review of The Maths of Life and Death here.

Chalkdust Readers’ Choice 2019

As well as picking our favourite from the shortlist, we held a vote for our readers to pick their favourite. The runaway winner of this poll was:

A Compendium Of Mathematical Methods: A handbook for school teachers

Jo Morgan

This book (Amazon UK, Waterstones, Foyles) contains details of various methods of completing various mathematical tasks, including subtraction, multiplication, simplifying surds, and polynomial division. Each method is demonstrated by example and reasons why each method works are discussed. This book is an excellent reference for secondary teachers, as well as an interesting book to browse through for the mathematically curious.

You can read our full review of A Compendium Of Mathematical Method here.

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2019 Book of the Year vote

Vote below for your favourite book. The book with the highest number of votes will be crowned the 2019 Readers’ Choice. Voting closes at 5pm on Wednesday 26 February.

You can find reviews of all the books on the shortlist here.

What is your favourite book on the 2019 Book of the Year shortlist?

  • A Compendium Of Mathematical Methods: A handbook for school teachers by Jo Morgan (48%, 37 Votes)
  • Geometry Puzzles in Felt Tip: A compilation of puzzles from 2018 by Catriona Shearer (18%, 14 Votes)
  • Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker (16%, 12 Votes)
  • So You Think You’ve Got Problems? by Alex Bellos (5%, 4 Votes)
  • The Art of Logic by Eugenia Cheng (4%, 3 Votes)
  • The Hidden Half by Michael Blastland (3%, 2 Votes)
  • Maths on the Back of an Envelope by Rob Eastaway (3%, 2 Votes)
  • The Maths of Life and Death by Kit Yates (3%, 2 Votes)
  • Here Come the Numbers by Kyle D Evans and Hana Ayoob (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 77

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The Hidden Half

Michael Blastland is a writer and broadcaster, and was the creator of BBC Radio 4’s More or Less. His book The Hidden Half: How the World Conceals its Secrets (Amazon UK, Waterstones), looks at how to understand, and how to avoid misunderstanding statistics and research.

Style

This book is less of a maths book than many of the books on our shortlist, and much that is discussed relates to science in general. But, as More or Less fans might expect from its creator, an awful lot of its content is related to statistics and evidence; enough that we here at Chalkdust have deemed this a maths book.

In The Hidden Half, Michael Blastland takes the reader through statistical and numerical ideas that most often lead to confusion: relative and absolute risks, the difficulty of comparing now with the past, and the effect of hidden factors. He takes you through each idea with a series of stories illustrating the effect and importance of each idea.

Control

The book begins with a story about marmorkrebs: a species of crayfish that can reproduce asexually, leading to their offspring being clones. Even though both the nature (genes) and nurture (enviroment) of the offspring could be kept the same for each child, there were still surprising differences in the appearance, size, and even internal organs of these offspring. From the go, this story had me hooked, and was a great illustration of an extra hidden causal factor.

Damage

This book looks at problems of the misinterpretation of statistics from the point of view of a scientist or economist, giving the effects of this misinterpretation a very real feel.

Aggression

I really enjoyed this one, and would strongly recommend it to many of my friends, especially my more science-liking (and less maths-loving) friends who would find themselves enjoying this before really realising that the ideas they’re reading about are mathematical. This makes for a very enjoyable read for a mathematician who will not be familiar with the stories that Michael tells.

 

Now that we’ve review all the book’s on this year’s shortlist, you can vote for your favourite. The book with the highest number of votes will be crowned the 2019 Readers’ Choice. Voting closes at 5pm on Wednesday 26 February.

What is your favourite book on the 2019 Book of the Year shortlist?

  • A Compendium Of Mathematical Methods: A handbook for school teachers by Jo Morgan (48%, 37 Votes)
  • Geometry Puzzles in Felt Tip: A compilation of puzzles from 2018 by Catriona Shearer (18%, 14 Votes)
  • Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker (16%, 12 Votes)
  • So You Think You’ve Got Problems? by Alex Bellos (5%, 4 Votes)
  • The Art of Logic by Eugenia Cheng (4%, 3 Votes)
  • The Hidden Half by Michael Blastland (3%, 2 Votes)
  • Maths on the Back of an Envelope by Rob Eastaway (3%, 2 Votes)
  • The Maths of Life and Death by Kit Yates (3%, 2 Votes)
  • Here Come the Numbers by Kyle D Evans and Hana Ayoob (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 77

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Maths on the Back of an Envelope

Rob Eastaway is a recreational mathematician, author, speaker, and maths event organiser. His latest book, Maths on the Back on an Envelope (Amazon UK, Waterstones, Maths Gear (signed)), is all about how to (roughly) calculate pretty much anything.

Style

Maths on the Back on an Envelope is an easy-going and enjoyable read. It takes the reader through some methods of approximation of numbers, while showing the reader why being able to perform such approximations is a useful skill. As well as suggesting the use of approximation to check that the correctness of answers, or to work out the approximate size of answer that should be expected, the book also makes the very good point that often an approximation is the best that we can do, and giving answers to a greater-than-appropriate level of accuracy can be misleading.

Control

The book explains the methods of approximation in a very understandable manner, and also justifies their use and appropriateness. Throughout, the user is challenged to try out their newly found calculation skills; the solutions to these challenges are given the back of the book, alongside some discussion of some ways people go about answering them.

Damage

The discussion of estimation and accuracy in this book is very strong, and is not something I’ve read much about elsewhere. The book sets itself apart from other books by encouraging you to actively engage in tasks related to the material being discussed, and you may find yourself finishing it with a far greater understanding of what everyday numbers mean.

Aggression

Although many of the methods of mental or on-paper calculation discussed in this book will be familiar to the keen mathematician, this book is still an enjoyable read, and even the most capable calculator can benefit from thinking about the issues surrounding accuracy in this book. I’d most strongly recommend this book to those looking to improve their skills with numbers, or to improve their understanding of numbers around them an in the news, but there’s still plenty to enjoy here for others.

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The Maths of Life and Death

Kit Yates is a senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Bath, who works in mathematical biology. His first book, The Maths of Life and Death (Amazon UK, Waterstones), is all about the maths of life and death.

Style

The Maths of Life and Death takes the reader on a tour of seven important areas of mathematics that underpin life and death. Many of the ideas discussed are related to medical and biological applications of maths and stats, and included stories about when misunderstanding or misinterpreting numbers could have (and sometimes have had) very grave consequences.

Control

The maths in this book is well explained, and the application to real life issues both makes the maths more accessible to the less mathematical reader, and makes the book more interesting to the knowledgable mathematician who may be familiar with much of the maths but will be less familiar with the practical contexts where it can be applied.

Damage

The strongest sections of the book are those in which Kit discusses medical statistics and disease modelling. As his own research is based near these areas, he is able to draw on his personal knowledge of these areas, while maintaining reader-friendly explanations of the maths involved. There are many books about biology and medicine aimed at the general reader, but the maths involved in these pursuits is rarely presented to such an audience: this is this book’s biggest strength, and it sets it apart from many other maths books.

Aggression

I would recommend this book to those interested in maths, and those interested in medicine or biology as they will get a lot out of reading about the maths underlying much of the work in these areas. I have a few people in mind who might be getting this one next Christmas…