Friday, February 1, 2013

Book review: Math From 3 to 7

I am thoroughly enjoying Math From 3 to 7 by Alexander Zvonkin.  From the back cover:

"This book is a captivating account of a professional mathematician's experiences conducting a math circle for preschoolers in his apartment in Moscow in the 1980's."

The author kept a journal in which he described the activities he did with the children and the results - both success and failures. At the request of friends and colleagues, he edited the journal for publication. This volume is the English translation of the edited work.

I find this book fascinating on a number of levels.  First, the Forward to the American Edition describes ways in which Eastern Europeans approach math education and describes the concept of a "math circle." Apparently there are a few math circles here in the US, particularly in university towns, but it is definitely phenomenon that needs to spread.

Next, I enjoy reading about the puzzles and activities he does with the children.  The activities look like a lot of fun, and I would like to try them out. Since I no longer have young children of my own, I am considering kidnapping other people's children so I can do these activities with them.  (I would only kidnap them temporarily.  Their parents can have them back when they get tired and fussy.  :)) Many of the activities could even be extended to be appropriate for older children - even teenagers.  I would recommend this book to elementary and middle school math club advisors.

Last, I am very interested to see which concepts the students grasped and which they struggled with. In several instances you can see Piaget stages illustrated. In editing his journal, the author added some thoughts on cognitive psychology which I have enjoyed.

I wish I had read this book before I had kids.  I recommend it for anyone who lives or works with children under the age of 12.

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