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Refreshing and Fresh View

Most of the resource books reviewed on MathNEXUS are directed at adult audiences who enjoy or teach mathematics. This week, the suggested text is "aimed at talented youngsters and inquisitive adults who want to expand their view of mathematics." In turn, this latter group probably should include secondary math teachers, who could use this text as a journey to personal professional development.

Shai Simonson's Rediscovering Mathematics: You Do the Math is a fun text to guide this journey. Though a computer science professor at Stonehill College, Simonson involves himself directly in the process of mathematics education at the middle school and high school levels. For example, he designed and taught a special mathematics curriculum for a group of students at the South Area Solomon Schechter Day School in Norwood (MA)...and it has now resurfaced as his new book.

Simonson states that the underlying theme for his book is that "mathematics education should focus less on rote memorization of terminology and algorithms, and more on understanding and deep comprehension that comes through investigation, experiment, and personal exploration." I can hear many secondary math teachers nodding in agreement, and those who are not, they perhaps should quickly use this text to rejuvenate themselves as math teachers.

The text has thirteen chapters, each involving diverse mathematics that "looks interesting" as a stop on the journey, complemented by tons of anecdotes, puzzles, problems, and special challenges. Except for the first, the chapters are basically independant, allowing one to browse and wander:

  • Chapter One: How to Read Mathematics (a helpful introduction!)
  • Chapter Two: Mathematical Discovery in the Classroom
  • Chapter Three: Have Another Piece of Pi, Zeno
  • Chapter Four: Thinking Like a Mathematician--Lessons from a Medieval Rabbi
  • Chapter Five: What is Mathematics Good For?
  • Chapter Six: Three Averages
  • Chapter Seven: Algorithms--The Unexpected Role of Pure Mathematics
  • Chapter Eight: Pythagoras' Theorem and Math by Pictures
  • Chapter Nine: Memorizing Versus Understanding (Especially good thoughts!)
  • Chapter Ten: Games and Gambling
  • Chapter Eleven: Soccer Balls and Counting Tricks
  • Chapter Twelve: Pizza Pi and Area
  • Chapter Thirteen: Back to the Classroom
To support my suggestion for using this text as one guide to a professional development journey, I also refer to Simonson's claim that it offers a "fresh view of mathematics for those who already like the subject, and offers a second chance for those who think they donít." In fact, the book can fit the same claim if used with students....

A Final note: At the time of writing this review, it is possible to win a free copy of this text. Check to see if the Contest is still active.