Starting Out Suggestions

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This has been a frequent topic on LivingMathForum, and the most common email inquiry I get. The answer depends so much on you and what you want to accomplish. It also depends on your own preferences, learning styles, and even attitudes.

For literature, try checking out several recommended books from the library to find one that resonates and motivates you and/or your child.
In the Math Reader Section, I recommend many books and resources.  What works for one, doesn't necessarily work for all, so I've listed several for each category.


Many parents realize when they try to teach math that they have hang ups about their own math learning and ability. Even parents who are competent at math do not know how to treat the subject as in anything other than a traditional way.

If you would like to explore other ways for your children to learn, and ways you can pass on a positive attitude toward math learning, here are some suggested starting points. FAQs

Patricia Kenschaft, Math Power: How to Help Your Child Love Math, Even if You Don't

Marilyn Burns, Math: Facing an American Phobia icon

W.W. Sawyer, Vision in Elementary Mathematics icon

John Paulos, Innumeracy, Mathematical Illiteracy icon 

Do you want to gain reassurance that the "math gene" didn't skip your family?

Suggested starting points:

Frank Smith, The Glass Wall, Why Mathematics Can Seem Difficult

(Frank Smith's book, The Book of Learning and Forgetting, is one of my all time most recommended resources on general learning)

Kevin Devlin, The Math Gene,How Mathematical Thinking Evolved & Why Numbers Are Like Gossip

Stanislas Dehaene, The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics

To learn how to "read math" with your kids:

Read Any Good Math Lately & It's The Story That Counts by Whitin & Wilde, - how to "read" math (K-6)

Articles "THIS is A Math Book?" and other resources on the Just Read It! pages will help you see how picture books teach math to younger children

High School and Adult level, for self ed / increasing YOUR enthusiasm:

Denis Guedj, Numbers: The Universal Language (art and math)

Clifton Fadiman, Fantasia Mathematica Anthology of logical/mathematical short stories

Isaac Asimov, On Numbers, The Realm of Number, The Realm of Measure, and The Realm of Algebra

Michael Guillen, Bridges to Infinity: The Human Side to Mathematics (not a formula to be found :o)

David Wells, The Penguin Book of Curious and Interesting Mathematics

A bit more advanced, but accessible and "human" math: Philip J. Davis, Reuben Hersh, The Mathematical Experience Adult level, understanding what mathematics is, humanizes math.

Try: Mathematicians Are People, Too, Vol I & Vol II (Amazon UK link)

Also very good: Julia Diggins, String, Straightedge and Shadow: The Story of Geometry

Marilyn Burns, The I Hate Mathematics! Book

For older and science oriented kids, Kevin Devlin, Life By the Numbers

For you, the teacher/parent: Whitin & Wilde, It's The Story That Counts and Read Any Good Math Lately

The Teaching Company, Joy of Thinking: The Beauty and Power of Classical Mathematical Ideas DVD or VHS Series recommended

Edward B. Burger, Michael Starbird have written a textbook, The Heart of Mathematics based on the Joy of Thinking ideas. Accessible to middle school (working with a parent) on up.

Harold Jacobs' classic text, "Mathematics: A Human Endeavor" is also used by many families as a "living" textbook, particularly when studied together with a parent.

The antidote to math burnout for some kids . . .

Hans Magnus Enzensberger, The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure (approx. ages 8 to 14, fun illustrations and story, don't be fooled, there is a LOT of math in this book!)

Marilyn Burns, I Hate Mathematics! (Brown Paper School Books) (approx. ages 8 to 14)

Kjartan Poskitt, Numbers, the Key to the Universe (Murderous Maths) and others in the Murderous Maths Series (approx. 8 to 14 - see Library page for listing)

Theoni Pappas, The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat (approx. 7 - 12)

Luetta and Walter Reimer, Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians Vol. 1, & Mathematicians are People, Too Vol II

Tahan, Malba, The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures, Chapter book, loosely based on the story of Khayyam

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