The Page Turner

November 2003
Boys and Reading

Math Books for
Transitional Readers

Math Books for
Independent Readers

Professional Resources:
Boys and Literacy

Professional Resources:
Other Books about Boys

Math Mania

    by Pamela Little

If girls tend to like reading—at least school reading—more than boys do, boys tend to like math more than girls do. So let's celebrate the roles math plays in our everyday lives. If that sounds boring to you, just wait. I've rounded-up a selection of books that will lead you to number-filled adventure. Don't be afraid to explore—your boys are counting on you!

Math Books for Transitional Readers

Math-terpieces: The Art of Problem Solving by Greg Tang
From the children's math guru and author of the Grapes of Math (2001), Math for All Seasons (2002), and Math Appeal (2003) comes Math-terpieces, the fifth book in this innovative series for children. In this latest book, Tang uses elements from familiar paintings to teach addition to younger children and problem-solving strategies to older children. The book features the work of twelve artists from Degas to Warhol. Illustrator Greg Paprocki uses color and design to group objects—umbrellas, fish, eyes—from each painting. A solution section describes approaches to each set of problems. Art notes describe the nine art movements represented. Tang's books help people open their minds to new possibilities: Kids will see the fun in being clever and working through problems, and educators will consider more innovative and intuitive ways of teaching. Coming soon: Math Fables (2004)!

Math Curse by Jon Scieska
From the creative team of Scieska and illustrator Lane Smith (The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and the Time Warp Trioread the review in the September Bookshelf) comes a truly ingenious tale of mathematical mayhem. A young girl wakes up one morning to find that everything in life is arranging itself into math problems. She decides that her teacher has put a math curse on her; she finds solutions to her math challenges in her dreams. The book is chock full of math concepts: base numbers (important in computers and video games), the Fibonacci series (important in natural science and a good illustration of how math developed in the abstract can later be found to have practical application), logic, and combinations. All mathematical problems are presented in the context of everyday circumstances, which helps children see why we need to study math. Smith's whimsical illustrations, combining drawings with collage, create multi-textured scenes that mirror the narration.

A Cloak for the Dreamer by Aileen Friedman
The three sons of a tailor help to make cloaks for the Archduke. Two of the sons, who also want to be tailors one day, do a fine job, but Misha does not—his cloak is made of circles of fabric, which, when joined together, leave gaps! The tailor realizes that his son has other ambitions, and gives his blessing to Misha to go see the world. Misha's father and brothers then cut the circles in Misha's cloak into hexagons so they can make Misha a beautiful new cloak to take with him.

How Much is a Million? by David M. Schwartz
Four young children, two cats, a dog, and a unicorn embark on a journey with Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician, who helps them to better understand very large numbers. For example, Marvelosissimo says that it would take about 23 days to count to a million, and that a billion kids standing on top of each other's shoulders would reach as high as the moon. This humorous and mind-boggling text is complemented by Stephen Kellogg's creative, funny, magical illustrations.

Math Books for Independent Readers

The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Come along on a magical journey of mathematical discovery. Robert, 12, detests math, mainly because his math teacher, Mr. Bockel, is incredibly boring. To the rescue comes the Number Devil. In a series of twelve dreams, the Number Devil explains mathematical mysteries and reveals the beauty and simplicity of numbers. Robert learns factorials, how to find a square root, and more. Concepts such as the importance of the number zero and the idea of infinity are stressed over and over. Robert discovers triangle numbers, imaginary numbers, and irrational numbers. Did you know that you can take any even number larger than 2 and find two prime numbers that add up to it? Robert is even able to apply what he has learned in an actual math class. Whimsical illustrations and colorful charts and diagrams add to the text.

The Math Chef: Over 60 Math Activities and Recipes for Kids by Joan D'Amico
The Math Chef helps children learn about mathematics and cooking and how the two are connected, using activities and recipes that require common ingredients and kitchen utensils. The first section covers kitchen tools, cooking skills, and safety rules. The rest of the book is divided into four sections, each on a broad math topic. Every chapter begins with an introduction to a concept, followed by a related kid-friendly cooking activity and several recipes that reinforce the math skill of the chapter. In the chapter on diameter in the geometry section, for example, children trace a circular plate on a piece of paper, cut it out, and fold it in half to measure the diameter. The five recipes in the chapter all involve circles, and children find the diameters of these circles as they cook. The book also contains a glossary and sections on nutrition and food safety. Children learn important math skills such as English and metric measurement, multiplication, division, fractions, percents, geometry, and much more.

Professional Resources: Boys and Literacy

Reading Don't Fix No Chevy's: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men by Michael W. Smith and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm
Featured book! Read about it in this issue's The Wire.
Increasingly, many children—boys in particular—fail to connect with what goes on in the language arts classroom. In carrying on extensive dialogues with 49 boys in grades 6-12, Smith and Wilhelm found that boys who resist traditional reading are often highly competent readers of computer manuals, sports magazines, graphic novels, and Internet communications. The authors argue that we must reach boys first through the literacy activities they already know and value. Then, if all goes well, the boys will begin to seek out wonder and meaning in ways that go deeper than the surface, and the door may open, for some, on the world of symbolic, philosophical, and emotional meaning that is so valued by teachers and other lifelong readers.

Great Books for Boys: More Than 600 Books for Boys 2 to 14 by Kathleen Odean
In American culture, boys are raised to achieve, to hide feelings of uncertainty and fear, to compete rather than collaborate. Boys also trail girls in reading and a love of books. This volume guides adults to books that will inspire boys of all different personalities. Odean, a former Caldecott and Newbery Award committee member, has assembled books for boys that offer a wide range of role models, that spark an interest in even the most reluctant readers, and that provide strong, positive portrayals of girls and women. These stories feature characters who have deep friendships with other boys, who are caring, and who have the respect of their peers, as well as those who rebel against peer pressure and go their own way.

Misreading Masculinity: Boys, Literacy, and Popular Culture by Thomas Newkirk
This book takes an interesting look at one aspect of boys' education: literacy in the late elementary years. Newkirk writes beautifully and illustrates his points with such a variety of literary and historical references that, even if you don't agree with his arguments and solutions, you'll have to think about your assumptions about boys, about the role of popular culture in education, and about how both boys and girls can be thoroughly engaged in and take pleasure from their own writing and the writing of others.

Professional Resources: Other Books about Boys

Boys and Girls Learn Differently by Michael Gurian
Guarian argues that boys' behavior is predetermined by nature and that subverting their natural male behavior does damage to boys. He proposes that society needs to celebrate boys' natural inclinations and offer healthy ways to support their development.

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson
This book discusses "cultures of masculinity," such as the culture of cruelty, that are perpetuated through various cultural means—including popular media and peer relationships—and is acted out in schools and classrooms.

Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myth of Boyhood by William S. Pollack
This book explores a "boy code" that governs male behavior through culturally created and perpetuated myths of masculinity. According to Pollack, this socially constructed code harms boys, so society, which defines and enforces social definitions of manhood, must actively redefine masculinity.

Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different and How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced by Steve Biddulph
This book uncovers both the social forces and the biological and hormonal forces that make a boy what he is. It discusses how to use these forces to help boys become safe, caring, and energetic individuals who are in love with life.

Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys by Jawanza Kunjufu
Kunjufu contends that there is a system, embedded in the fiber of our society and supported by our tax dollars, whose purpose is to destroy Black boys. This "conspiracy" is part of a larger plan to render African Americans powerless and ineffectual.


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