Contributed by
Vijay Fafat
This slim book is a very easy, unassuming, pleasant read which adults and sixth graders can both read with joy. It is an autobiographical fictionalization of some parts of a mathematics teacher’s life. The main character is a teacher at Normal University in Michigan. “Dr. Bakay (or Bakaj in Solvak since there is no y in the Solvak language)”, as he is named, is a direct play on the author’s last name. The book chronicles Dr. Bakay’s background, his interactions with his math classes and his varied travels to the Far East, Middle East, Latin America and Europe with his family and students. In the process, Dr. Bakay covers a very wide range of topics in elementary mathematics in a proper fictional setting: Perfect numbers, Mersenne Primes, fractals, birthday problem, alphametics, calendar arithmetic, Mayan mathematics, etc
A small excerpt: In one of his Math Lab sessions, he asks second grade students to look at the 3peg “Tower of Hanoii” puzzle. After analyzing the first few cases, he asks them to guess the number of moves required for n = 5 disks. Many students guess the correct answer of 31 but with disparate types of reasoning, each of which surprises the teacher. His interactions with the children in his “Math Lab” teach him novel ways in which kids think about mathematical activities (incidentally, Dr. Buckeye’s book, “A Cloudburst of Math Lab Experiments”, is also referenced in the text)
Sadly, Dr. Buckeye passed away recently.
