- Age Range: 5 - 8 years
- Grade Level: Preschool - 2
- Lexile Measure: 550L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 48 pages
- Publisher: Roaring Brook Press; 5/26/13 edition (June 25, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596433078
- ISBN-13: 978-1596433076
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 10.2 x 262.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 113 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos Hardcover – June 25, 2013
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*Starred Review* Though eccentric mathematician Paul Erdos might seem an unusual subject for a picture book, his story makes for a memorable biography. Growing up in Hungary during WWI, Erdos tried school but chafed at the rules and convinced his mother that he should study at home. He was fascinated by numbers from an early age, and by the time he was 20, he was known as The Magician from Budapest. Unable to do common tasks such as cooking, laundry, or driving, he spent his adult life flying around the world, staying with other mathematicians, and working collaboratively on challenging math problems. Math is woven into the lively writing (Mama loved Paul to infinity. Paul loved Mama to 8, too!). The wonderfully vivid artwork, where ideas from the text are clarified, also uses decorative elements to support the idea that Erdos saw the world differently—numerically. Heiligman appends a lengthy note about writing the book, while Pham offers a more extensive note on creating the illustrations, in which she comments on the mathematical ideas and mathematicians depicted in the art. This excellent picture-book biography celebrates a man little known outside his field, but one well worth knowing. Grades K-3. --Carolyn Phelan
“Erdos's unconventional brilliance shines through on every page, and extensive author and illustrator notes (including Pham's explanations of the mathematical concepts she works into each illustration) will delight readers with even a fraction of Erdos's interest in math.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“*An exuberant and admiring portrait introduces the odd, marvelously nerdy, way cool Hungarian-born itinerant mathematical genius.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“An infinitely creative and entertaining book.” ―The Horn Book
“Pair this with Don Brown's Odd Boy Out (BCCB 10/04) to compare genius eccentricities, or hand it to middle-grade lovers of math puzzles--opened to the notes.” ―BCCB
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Top customer reviews
It definitely promotes an interest in math. My three-year-old asked in the first reading what negative numbers were. I told her they were numbers that were less than zero. She then asked what numbers were less than negative numbers. She also asked what prime numbers were and why they were special (I didn't have a very good pre-K answer for that one). You don't get that sort of conversation with other children's books.
On the other hand, Paul Erdos himself was a pretty strange fellow, and the plot of his life doesn't make for obviously engaging children's reading. The part my three-year-old connected with the most was the part where Paul doesn't want to go to school because he doesn't want to be away from his mama, and he doesn't like rules. And the workaround that his mother comes up with is to homeschool him (lesson: if you hate rules and love your mama, she'll stay home with you all the time). That's not necessarily the sort of lesson you want your kid learning. My daughter also didn't connect with "Uncle Paul" as he grew up into a strange old man who couldn't even eat dinner without help from others. Having said that, she definitely likes the book and has asked for repeated readings (although she sometimes asks me to skip the parts where he's an old man).
So, five stars for making a math-y book that is engaging for kids, and three stars for the sometimes strange life lessons of Paul Erdos, for an average of four stars.
My daughter seemed ok with the passages indicating he was socially awkward and different. I thought that was fine since it shows that people can be different and experience the world in different ways. It probably also makes him interesting to a young reader. Overall 5 Stars because it is a successful adaptation of a biography for young readers and manages to show how a person could love numbers from an early age. Skip over the awkward bits.
The text is simple but delightful, and the story of a boy who doesn't like to sit still will surely sit well with restless children. The mathematics in the story is simple (prime numbers cannot be evenly divided) and well explained, with hints at deeper math drawn into the buildings (a diagramatic proof of R(3,3)=6), and detailed explanations provided at the end (yes, those are the harmonic primes!). This is an excellent book to spark a child's curiosity, no matter what her interests might be.
The book is beautiful, the artwork captures the setting of Budapest and the artist has done extensive research to accurately reflect the stories, locations, and people who were involved with Erdos (and was in close communication with two of Erdos' closest friends for feedback and advice as the book progressed). The writing is equally good, with a lot of thought and care put into discussing Erdos' life.
This will undoubtedly be the best children's book written about mathematicians and mathematics. It is a treasure and belongs in every young person's library (and also every mathematician's).