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Math and Science - Related Books You Can Read, page 7
Recommended by Mr. Brandenburg

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1. The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat
By Theoni Pappas
(World Wide, 132 pp, 1997)
Ages 9-14
"Penrose, a cat with a knack for math, takes children on an adventurous tour of mathematical concepts from fractals to infinity. When the fractal dragon jumps off the computer screen and threatens to grow larger than the room itself, Penrose must find out if fractal patterns can work in reverse, getting smaller instead of larger."

2. Afterwards: Folk and Fairy Tales With Mathematical Ever Afters
by Peggy Kaye
(Cuisenaire, 128 pp, 1997)
Ages 9-12
"I enjoyed this book. My students enjoyed the moral lessons that it taught. The stories had a set of mathematical problems at the end for the students to work. Many of the problems could be changed to different grade levels."

3. Algebra the Easy Way
By Douglas Downing
(Barron's, 329 pp, 1996)
"An algebra text in the form of a fantasy novel, with the story's characters solving problems by using algebra." Some students who read it liked it, but others did not.

4. Fantasia Mathematica: Being a Set of Stories, Together With a Group of Oddments and Diversions, All Drawn from the Universe of Mathematics
Edited by Clifton Fadiman
(Copernicus, 298 pp, 1997)
"Some of the short stories are humorous, some are endearing, some have common characters. All deal with mathematics in one way or another.... This book closely tied math with imagination and fantasy-a connection never clearly drawn in my public education. ... It is another way to know why your baseball is going to break the window, how to build a spaceship in your back yard, and how to teleport to Argentina in 0 seconds flat."

5. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions
By Edwin A. Abbott
(Dover, 128 pp, reprint)
GFBR**** 12-Adult
"Flatland is one of the very few novels about math and philosophy that can appeal to almost any layperson. Published in 1880, this short fantasy takes us to a completely flat world of two physical dimensions where all the inhabitants are geometric shapes, and who think the planar world of length and width that they know is all there is. But one inhabitant discovers the existence of a third physical dimension, enabling him to finally grasp the concept of a fourth dimension."

6. A Gebra Named Al: A Novel
By Wendy Isdell
(Free Spirit, 128 pp, 1993)
Ages 9-15
"Julie hates algebra--until she meets a gebra named Al, and the Periodic horses journey through the Land of Mathematics, where the Orders of Operations are real places and fruits that look like Bohr models grow on chemis-trees." The writer was herself a youngster taking algebra when she wrote the book!

7. The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures
By Malba Tahan
(Norton, 244 pp, 1993)
Middle School-Adult
"The Arabian adventures of a man with remarkable mathematical skills, which he uses to settle conflict and give wise advice." (Malba Tahan is a pseudonym; the author is not an Arab!)

8. The Mathematical Magpie
Edited by Clifton Fadiman
(Springer-Verlag, 303 pp, 1997)
A collection of stories, edited by Fadiman. I have never read it, and cannot advise on its quality.

9. The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure
By Hans Magnus Enzensberger
(Holt, 262 pp, 2000)
GFBR**** 9-Adult
"In 12 dreams, a 12-year-old boy who hates math discovers the amazing world of numbers: infinite numbers, prime numbers, Fibonacci numbers, numbers that magically appear in triangles, and numbers that expand without end." Brilliant, in my opinion. Just don't get so hooked on his 12-year-old terminology that you think it's the real thing!

10. The Phantom Tollbooth
By Norton Juster
(Random House, 256 pp, many editions)
Ages 9-13
"I was ten years old when this book was first published. My father had the foresight to buy a copy of it as a Christmas gift for me. One of my most treasured childhood memories was having him read this astounding novel out loud. This is a remarkable story about an ordinary boy. He discovers the magic in the mundane world that surrounds him and he does so by getting involved with math, science, words, fractions, sound, humbugs, whiches (spelled correctly!) and some terrible demons. Now when I read the book I find the demons even more menacing because they are the demons that dwell in the world of being grownup. Juster wrote the almost impossible - a book for children that is just as good for adults. This intelligent book doesn't forego story for message, but the message is vital, a whole lot of fun and interesting from the start. After all, who wouldn't be intrigued by finding a phantom tollbooth in his bedroom?" However, I personally didn't like this book very much, and couldn't stand reading it. That's why I can't give it any stars at all - I didn't read it. Some folks really like it, though.

11. Sphereland: A Fantasy About Curved Spaces and an Expanding Universe
By Dionys Burger
(International, 1982)
"Sphereland, the sequel to Flatland, is a great book to help one expand one's mind. This book is a satire, a geometry lesson, and a good exercise for the mind. Sphereland is also useful for helping one to think outside of the box, and the universe for that matter. This book stretches the confines of your mind and imagination."

12. Surreal Numbers: How Two EX-Students Turned on to Pure Mathematics and Found Total Happiness: A Mathematical Novelette
By Donald Knuth
(Addison Wesley, 128 pp, 1982, reprinted many times)
"An astonishing feat of legerdemain. An empty hat rests on a table made of a few axioms of standard set theory. Conway waves two simple rules in the air, then reaches into almost nothing and pulls out an infinitely rich tapestry of numbers that form a real and closed field. Every real number is surrounded by a host of new numbers that lie closer to it than any other 'real' value does. The system is truly 'surreal.'"

13. Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture
By Apostolos Doxiadis (Bloomsbury, 224 pp, 2001)
"I'd ... recommend it to those who like literature and mathematics with some history thrown in. A mathematical conjecture unsolved for two centuries; a mathematical genius uncle driven mad trying to solve it; an ambiguous relation with a mathematically-minded nephew; and acute human observation all come together in Uncle Petros to make a very funny, tender, charming and, to my mind, irresistable novel. In the tradition of Fermat's Last Theorem and Einstein's Dreams, a novel about mathematical obsession."


1. The Book of Numbers
By John Horton Conway and Richard K. Guy
(Copernicus/Springer-Verlag, 310 pp, 1996)
GFBR**** HS-Adult
"A fascinating review of numbers: from Egyptian fractions to surreal numbers; prime numbers, Fibonacci numbers, Catalan numbers, Fermat numbers; from numbers so large they cannot be imagined (and barely be named) to ruler-and-compass."


1. Magick, Mayhen, and Mavericks: The Spirited History of Physical Chemistry
By Cathy Cobb
(Prometheus, 420 pp, 2002)
"Cobb, a physics teacher, conveys a contagious enthusiasm for the rarely celebrated but vital science of physical chemistry, which explains and predicts molecular structure and the behavior of chemicals at the atomic scale. She traces the history of the discipline by focusing on the exceptionally gifted - and sometimes odd - characters who made key contributions to the field, including Antoine Lavoisier, Michael Faraday, and Max Planck."


1. One Two Three...Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science
By George Gamow
(Dover, 335 pp, reprint)
GFBR***** Teen-Adult
"This book changed lives around the world. Many of us began our journey into science and mathematics with this book. The reviews at the other book site show how many of us were changed in our young lives by this book. Buy it for every child you know." This book has been in print for over 50 years, because it's really, really GOOD.

2. Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics
By Robert Gilmore
(Copernicus, 184 pp, 1995)
General audience
Told in the same way as Alice in Wonderland and a hint of Flatland, Gilmore guides us through the principles of Quantum mechanics in a truly lively and fun way.

3. The Cartoon Guide to Physics
By Larry Gonick
(Harper, 224 pp, reprint)
GFBR**** Teen-Adult
"If you think a negative charge is something that shows up on your credit-card bill--if you imagine that Ohm's law dictates how long to meditate--if you believe that Newtonian mechanics will fix your car, here's the book for you."

4. The Making of the Atomic Bomb
By Richard Rhodes
(Simon & Schuster, 889 pp, 1986)
"If the first 270 pages of this book had been published separately, they would have made up a lively, insightful, beautifully written history of theoretical physics and the men and women who plumbed the mysteries of the atom. Along with the following 600 pages, they become a sweeping epic, filled with terror and pity, of the ultimate scientific quest: the development of the ultimate weapon. Rhodes is a peerless explainer of difficult concepts; he is even better at chronicling the personalities who made the discoveries that led to the Bomb. Niels Bohr dominates the first half of the book as J. Robert Oppenheimer does the second; both men were gifted philosophers of science as well as brilliant physicists. The central irony of this book, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, is that the greatest minds of the century contributed to the greatest destructive force in history."

5. Mr. Tompkins
By George Gamow
(Cambridge, 186 pp, reprint)
"This classic work provides a clear explanation of the central concepts in modern physics--from atomic structure to relativity and quantum theory to fusion and fission--through the fantastic adventures of its bank clerk hero First appearing over 50 years ago, George Gamow's Mr. Tompkins became known and loved by thousands of readers as the bank clerk whose fantastic adventures lead him into a world inside the atom. A new Foreword by Roger Penrose introduces Mr. Tompkins to a new generation of readers and reviews his adventures in light of current developments in physics."

6. Powers of Ten: About the Relative Sizes of Things in the Universe
By Philip & Phylis Morrison
(Freeman, short, many editions)
GFBR***** Middle School-Adult
Also the subject of a short movie. This shows how we humans fit into the physical structure of the universe, by burrowing deep into a person's hand and going down all the way to the sub-atomic particles that make up matter; and then backing up so that we can see the park, the city, the lake, the continent, the planet, the solar system, the local group of stars, the galaxy, and more. You have to SEE the illustrations to understand it!

7. A Tour of The Subatomic Zoo: A Guide to Particle Physics
By Cindy Schwarz
(Springer-Verlag, 135 pp, 1996)
"Insights into the structure of matter from the atom down to the quark are discussed within a historical context that makes them easily accessible to readers with no physics and little math background."

[astronomy]   [bad science]   [biography: mathematicians + scientists]
[biology/life science/evolution]   [chaos theory]   [codes and code-breaking]
[computer science/robotics/game theory]   [earth science/geology]
[history of mathematics]   [how-to: mathematics]   [how-to: science]
[mathematics - general]   [novels + short stories]   [number theory]
[physical chemistry]   [physics]   [probability + statistics]   [puzzles + problems]
[reference - mathematics]   [reliable, prolific authors on science + math]   [science - general]  

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