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Comparisons Galore

Speaking of books about data and measurements for the past few weeks, I cannot help but mention the Diagram Group's text Comparisons. Though out-of-print, you still can pick up a copy for less than 40 cents!

On the cover to the right, the authors' describe their book well: "An ingenious visual guide to the relative speed, size, strength, area, height, depth, length, quantity, shape, mass, hardness, temperature, noisiness, running, jumping, lifting, swimming, diving, drilling, flying, birth, growth, aging, life expectancy, evolution and more of man, woman, animals, birds, fish, insects, dinosaurs, cars, trains, planes, rockets, buildings, bridges, tunnels, trees, waterfalls, mountains, rivers, islands, oceans, planets, stars, galaxies and more...plus comparisons of systems of number, geometry, calendars and for measurement of time, distance, heat, energy, probability and more...An icomparably fascinating and educational illustrated thesaurus of fact."

That was a mouthful...but in short form, the book succeeds because it "illustrates vividly and immaginatively all the measureable facets of our universe's creatures and objects." For example, imagine how one might visually answer these questions:

  • If the tallest waterfall, tree, building, and rocket were next to each other, how would they compare?
  • What country on earth has more than 50 percent of the surface area of the moon? What countries have less area than New York's Central Park?
  • How does the longest jump a man can make compare with the distance a kangaroo can easily hop? If a flea were the size of a man, how far could it leap?
Given these questions, it is difficult to not visualize potential answers and also discuss the important idea of scale. My one regret is that the book has a copyright date of 1980, and needs to be updated with today's data....though perhaps that can be a challenge shared with your students.

For almost 25 years, I have used this book as a resource of interesting information to share in class or for concocting unusual word problems to explore. Hope you get a copy of the book and do the same!