[Math Lair] The I Hate Mathematics Book by Marilyn Burns

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The I Hate Mathematics Book by Marilyn Burns (Little, Brown, and Company, 1975) is a book for kids (including kids of all ages) who "hate mathematics." The book, originally published in 1975, is still a popular book, and this status is well-deserved. For those who feel that mathematics is "too hard," "irrelevant," or just "no fun," this book counters with hundreds of mathematical activities, experiments, games, puzzles, riddles, and more.

The book is divided into several chapters, organized not by mathematical concepts but by situation (in the kitchen, playing games with friends, out on the sidewalk, putting on a magic show, and so on). Each chapter consists of several activities, puzzles, riddles, and math tricks. Each activity is explained in a fairly straightforward manner and usually takes no more than a page or two to explain. Many of the activities are hands-on, and the answers aren't given for the most part, so readers have to try them themselves to discover the answers. The book is very well-illustrated, so it should keep the attention of younger readers.

There are several themes that are helpful, especially for readers who hate mathematics or think that they are bad at it. First, many of the activities illustrate how mathematics is relevant to everyday life, and isn't just some subject you learn in school. It shows how things that you might not think of as being mathematical ("what does that have to do with mathematics?") really are. Second, the book emphasises that mathematics is not just arithmetic; logical thinking, to take an example, is just as important. Third, kids should find the activities to be fun and engaging.

Based on the book's writing level and mathematical concepts, this book is probably most appropriate for children in grade 4 or 5 or so. However, younger children may be able to use this book if an adult or other resource is available to explain some of the concepts (the book isn't a textbook, so it doesn't attempt to define every term and concept, such as "radius") or if an adult reads the book with them and/or is involved in the activities with them. Actually, it's probably useful to have an interested adult anyway, because some of the activities require various materials.

Rating: 9.5/10