Felipe Voloch, University of Texas|
The Man who counted: delightful adventures of a medieval arabic mathematician.
It is aimed at young readers (10+) but can be enjoyed by all. The mathematics
is elementary but is all correct and nicely done. Some examples give the
flavor of the book. Three brothers are arguing over their inheritance of
35 camels, since their father's instruction was to give 1/2 to the oldest,
1/3 to the second and 1/9 to the youngest son. Our hero appears on the scene
as the brothers are about to hack some camels to pieces and he offers to
lend his assistance and his camel. With 36 camels, he gives 18 to the
oldest, 12 to the second, 4 to the youngest and keeps 2 to himself! In another
scene, the hero has to tell whether the veiled concubines of the sheik have
blue or brown eyes. The blue-eyed ones always lie and the brown-eyed ones
never lie and he can only ask so many questions..."
The book has a fairy tale flavor to
it, with a lot of picturesque scenes and rather a lot of
interesting mathematics. Even beyond the puzzles (many of
which are non-trivial), there is also a description of the
history of mathematics, including the invention of the zero
(and why it was significant) and the invention of chess.
Also, there is a part where the hero,
as part of a tutoring session, describes
the sub-fields of mathematics as those
of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry, but that these areas
are complementary rather than independent.
Amazingly, there is enough story there to make the story
itself kind of interesting, rather than being merely an
excuse for the math lessons."
Though the Islamic feel of the book is quite convincing for the most part,
the character's unrealistic emphasis on the appearances of Jesus in the
Koran gives away the fact that it is a well done fake. Nothing on the copy
of the book that I own indicates the true authorship of the book, but
aparently in Brazil the author is well known.
"The author of this book is really the Brazilian Julio Cesar de Mello e
Souza, who lived in Rio de Janeiro and since his childhood loved the Arabic
culture. You'll can find more in the following link (in Portuguese)
Simply an amazing book, its a delightful combination of the best of literature with the beauty of math, bringing some very interesting situations. Good not only for the development of the mathematical thinking, but also a fantastic tale to enjoy.
Math made poetry!
I used this in Grade -7 and the students responded very well to it. I also animated some parts of the story and that made students visualise the story and the concepts all the more. I enjoyed the reading.