"I'm gonna be your number one"
-- Blondie, "The Tide is High"
"So Paul kept counting...
And thinking about numbers. One day when he was 4, Paul asked a visitor when her birthday was. She told him.
"What year were you born? he asked.
"She told him.
"She told him.
"Paul thought for a moment.
"Then he told her how many seconds she had been alive.
"Paul liked that trick. He did it often."
Read that again. HE WAS FOUR!!!
When I was a kid, I loved math, too. My mom was a bookkeeper who loved talking math with me. I can imagine now how my fourth and fifth grade teachers must have conferred about us before the beginning of our fifth grade year. A couple of weeks into that school year, my teacher met with me and my classmate David. He'd obviously learned and saw for himself that we were not being challenged by the math curriculum (or, to put it another way, that we were serious math geeks). He offered us the opportunity to independently study all the math we wanted on our own. Just go for it. We immediately agreed.
What a fun year! Several days a week after school, David and I would go over to one of our houses, eat snacks and do math until it was time to go home for dinner. By the end of fifth grade, we'd completed the fifth grade math book and the sixth grade math book. Boy, were we grooving on math!
Of course, Paul Erdős was probably to that same point before he lost half his baby teeth.
THE BOY WHO LOVED MATH is a really fun and interesting read because Paul Erdős, the son of math teachers, was one of those kids for whom school didn't work so well. He ended up studying independently -- home schooling -- for much of his childhood with Frälein, who'd been his caregiver when he was a preschooler. She had lots of rules but it was, maybe, "500 times better" than being at school.
Paul Erdős grew up to be an eccentric adult who lacked many practical living skills, but, as I just learned on Wikipedia, he was a genius who published more papers in his lifetime than any mathematician in history. He wandered the world hanging out doing math with other mathematicians. (Just like me and David, only several trillion times more complicated math.)
Through text and illustrations, THE BOY WHO LOVED MATH does such a great job of capturing young Paul's delight with prime numbers and other math concepts. We really see how one can discover and follow one's passion.
This is one more of those stellar picture book biographies that conveys an amazing true story in a few dozen perfectly-crafted pages.
48 pages Ages 6-10 978-1-5964-3307-6
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS
Instructor, San Jose State University, California USA