Days away from celebrating a well-known mathematical constant, our family is eagerly planning how we will spend it. Eagerly? Well, maybe not eagerly. We did mention a couple of times how cool this year is. Not only is March 14th National Pi Day, but this year is now being tauted as EPIC. Why? It will be 3-14-15. Get it? 3.1415…? And if you really want to geek out about it give a big shout out to pi at exactly 9:26:53am. Being mathematically challenged most of my life, I am certainly not a numbers or formula kind of person. Sitting in Mrs. Lombardo’s algebra and geometry classes, I remember the unblinking digits of pi circling the room close to the ceiling, inspiring me to absolutely nothing but a slight fear of too many numbers. And why were they about to topple over onto our desks? Language, literature and history were rife with creativity and imagination. Mathematics, however, bored me to tears of frustration. Years later, not feeling the stress of grades and textbook problems, I can distance myself from my mathematical distaste. Why not have fun with something anyway? The following books certainly help.
Sir Cumference series These clever picture books by Cindy Neuschwander and Wayne Geehan do justice to the practicality of geometry. Set in medieval times each character’s name is a play on words, such as Sir Cumference, his wife Lady Di of Ameter, their son Radius, and a niece Per of Ameter. Geo and Sym of Immetry, as well as Vertex are also important characters. The stories and illustrations seem to suit the 5-7 year-old age range, however the math concepts are really geared for an older child, possibly 9-12, depending on their exposure and mastery of math. This week we plan on calculating the areas of circles making use of pi. There are several books in this series.
Navigating Early Written exquisitely by the 2010 Newberry Award winner for Moon Over Manifest, Clare Vanderpool has also penned this 2013 adventure of a boy named Jack Baker. Navigating Early is set just after WWII and focuses on 12-year-old Jack, who is still mourning his mother’s death as his taciturn father drops him off at a Maine boarding school for boys. While there, Jack is befriended by Early Auden, “the strangest of all boys,” who is also dealing with his great loss, the presumed death and disappearance of his brother Fisher. With no other plans during their spring break, the two sail off down the river in search of adventure, answers and healing, Early, although not stated as such, likely has Asperger’s, and a savant gift for memorizing numbers. He not only knows pi to the thousands of digits and does not believe it to have an ending, but also sees the digits of pi as a distinct story, a narrative which eerily unfolds in real life as the boys continue further on into their journey. Early’s tale of pi and the boys’ acknowledgement of what is happening to them unfolds simultaneously. Without revealing anything further, Navigating Early is a novel of friendship, loyalty, family and endurance. Not only is this a beautiful story, but a surprisingly imaginative and heart-warming way to celebrate Pi Day.
Or any day, really.