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Review of the book The Adventures of Penrose The Mathematical Cat

Some of us are math enthusiastics: we love math, think it is full of beauty, logic, and patterns; we think it can be fun, exciting, amusing even. (I include myself in this category.)

And then some of us don't care for math, didn't like it in school, didn't do well in it, don't want anything to do with it anymore. And I'm sure there are people in between these extremes, too.

As a teacher, you would like your students to belong to the first category, of course. Now, I sincerely think that the biggest factor in whether student ends up liking or hating math is what kind of math teacher and teaching he/she gets. Parents' attitudes play a role too, but teacher's attitude to math and the way math is taught are the weightiest factors, I feel.

But books such as The Adventures of Penrose The Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas can help too. It is intended for fun reading, exploring exciting mathematical topics in an easy-to-understand way.

The storyline includes Penrose the mathematical cat who seems pretty lazy but often gets interested in her mistress' math papers and thus ends up learning about this and that in math.

But this isn't a book about adding or fractions or ratios or algebra or any of the normal topics in school math. It is about those various fascinating and fun mathematical ideas you seldom encounter in school curriculum. Via Penrose, they are presented in an easy way for kids to understand.

Penrose learns the truth about infinityFor example, you get to encounter 0s and 1s (binary numbers), fractals, infinity, Mobious strip, Pascal triangle, golden rectangles, paperfolding, tessellations, abacus, magic squares, tangrams, nanoworld... For math geeks, these are familiar topics. They show some of the beautiful or fun or intriguing aspects of math.

Each chapter spans about four pages, has a short storyline, and often a problem or challenge in the end. Answers are included in the end of the book. For its mathematical content, it would be suitable for grades 3-9 maybe, but even younger kids can enjoy some of it.

I liked the layout a lot; it is very clear and spacey with generous amount of pictures to hold the little reader's interest.

You could say this book is about "Math appreciation". We are told to teach our children to appreciate fine arts, paintings, sculptures, and music. In my opinion, learning about these fascinating math topics is important also, and it helps children to see an ARTISTIC or CREATIVE side to mathematics. Art and math are connected anyway - you'll find out about that in this book also.

Math is so much more than your basic facts, fractions, and algebra. Via The Adventures of Penrose, you can give your child a glimpse of all that, encourage her to study math, and let her mathematical understanding grow a few leaps.

Penrose meets Fibonacci rabbit and learns about Fibonacci numbers
Here Penrose meets Fibonacci rabbit and of course will learn about Fibonacci numbers.

The Adventures of Penrose The Mathematical Cat, about $9 new. The author Theoni Pappas has written several other math books, too.

Review by Maria Miller