We’ve Got Your Number written by Mukul Patel and illustrated by Supriya Sahai aims to show 10-14 year olds why almost everything in their lives boils down to maths, and explains why they should change how they get pocket money so they start with just 1p in the first week of the new year.
It’s bold and bright and full of cartoons. It covers everything from the maths of planets, space and time, to the way maths impacts on decisions you make every day, from what flavour ice-cream to have to how to choose a healthier snack. Brief biographies of mathematicians, such as Fibonacci, Euler and Al-Khwarizmi are interspersed with facts and lots of small projects to try out at home (with the solutions provided at the end of the book, so you can double check how you’ve got on).
With lots of short stand-alone sections, this book is easy to dip in and out of; this is just as well because it is so packed with information, it could easily feel slightly overwhelming if you tried to sit down and read it from cover to cover. I do wonder if this book will work better for us the longer we live with it, using it as a reference book to go back to when M, J and I want to explore a particular topic.
This book proudly believes its readers can understand quite complex mathematical issues; the unpatronizing approach continues in the resources list which includes several books and websites mostly marketed for adults, but which the author believes kids could also appreciate. If asked to recommend this book for a particular readership I’d suggest it’s not for the beginner/early mathematician, but rather for one who is already pretty curious about the way numbers work.
Although We’ve Got Your Number didn’t work brilliantly for us, it did prompt me to find some other ways to get M excited about maths. And so I turned to magic!
There’s a whole class of magic tricks based on maths, and many of them are easy to do, even if you don’t understand WHY they work. I taught M a Mind Reading Maths trick (below), which she then went on to perform in class in the “show and tell” slot one day. Cue lots of oohs and aahs, and quite a lot of street cred from her classmates and teachers. It definitely worked for boosting her confidence in and curiosity about maths. It looks rather long and wordy having typed it out below, but I do encourage you to give it a go. It’s simple, beautiful and packs a big punch!
Mind Reading Maths
(a) Double the value of her card
(b) Add 2 to that number
(c) Multiply that answer by 5
(If things go wrong, either you put your card on the wrong side of your friend’s card, or your friend got her maths wrong – you can always double check)
Given how much fun we had with this one trick, I’ve now prepared some more Maths Magic Lunchbox Printables for M. I will put these in with her lunch this week so she can wow her friends with her amazing magic skills whilst they munch their sandwiches.
You can download my Maths Magic Lunchbox Printables here (sheet 1 – slightly easier maths), here (sheet 2 – slightly more complicated maths), and here (a blank sheet for friends to use as part of the magic tricks). I suspect the most popular trick will be the one you can use to work out the age and shoe size of your teachers and dinner ladies…
We didn’t have any music on whilst we learned our Maths Magic Trick, but if you want songs to go with We’ve Got Your Number you might enjoy these:
Other activities which you might enjoy along side reading We’ve Got Your Number include:
What’s your favourite number and why? What books have your found accessible, well pitched and exciting when it comes to getting your kids enthusiastic about maths?
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of We’ve Got Your Number from the Royal Society.
Each year the Royal Society awards a prize to the best book that communicates science to young people with the aim of inspiring young people to read about science. We’ve Got Your Number is on this year’s shortlist for the The Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize. The winner will be announced mid November.