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Book Review Math-terpieces by

Book Review

Math-terpieces: The Art of Problem-Solving by Greg Tang, illustrated by Greg paprocki (Scholastic, 2003)

Ages 5-9

Big Learning usually means disregarding the boundaries between subjects, so of course I was intrigued by this attempt to blend mathematics with art appreciation.

Each left-hand page of Math-terpieces contains a colorful reproduction of an artwork by a famous artist, and a little poem that explains what's so great about the painting or the artist. Tang has chosen artwork representing a variety of styles, ranging from late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century.

On the right page, Tang takes some element from the artwork, say, a bowl of peaches, and creates several different sized groupings of them - a bowl of five peaches, a bowl of three peaches, etc. The child's task is to use create groups that add up to a certain number. On the peaches page, there are six different bowls with varying numbers of peaches, and the child has to find five ways to make ten peaches by combining two or more bowls.

My kids like this book. They don't care that it barely qualifies as "problem-solving" since each page is solved in pretty much the same way. They also don't care that the art and math exist side-by side, more a co-habitation then a real blend. Kids are directed to think about the art or the math, but never both at once.

So I approve despite my misgivings. Anything that encourages kids to look at art is OK by me, and books that make math this visually appealing are too few and far between. I also think Math-terpieces, and Tang's other books, are good for building visualization skills.

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