Math Teachers Summer Reading Fun

Sandy Merz Uncategorized

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Some months ago in Content Reading As Teacher Self-Care I wrote that counterintuitive as it sounds, reading in our content areas, in addition to our normal workload, can amount to self-care. That’s because reading a good content book can reconnect us with our love for our subjects. I’m specifically not referring to textbooks or anything pedagogical, but to books about our subjects that you might find among the science books or history books or poetry books in the local bookstore – the kind of books with content we want to share because it’s what makes our subjects so cool. At the end of the post, I listed some math books that work like that for me (and will include them at the end of this post, too).

But first, as we count down the days to summer vacation (17 as of this writing), I’d like to recommend a few more math titles (and a couple of non-math books as well.)

First, I’m tentatively scheduled to teach Statistics next year. To dust off my memories of that content, I’ve been reading Dark Data: Why What You Don’t Know Matters, by David Hand and The Art of Statistics: How to Learn from Data by David Spiegelhalter. The discusses missing data and compares it to what astronomers refer to as dark matter or dark energy – stuff which quantitatively influences everything, but which we can’t specifically locate. The second gently explains, with good, even fun examples, the standard topics in statistics and probability.

Did you ever notice that between 0, 1, 2, and infinity, numbers are pretty much the same? Eugenia Cheng has and in Beyond Infinity: an Expedition to the Outer Limits of Mathematics, she mulls over many (but not infinitely many) thoughts and questions (often from young children) that the concept of infinity provokes.

In Shape: The Hidden Geometry for Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else, Jordan Ellenberg (author of How Not to Be Wrong, listed below) combines much history, literature, science, politics and the like to illustrate, “Where things are and how to look for them,” as he titles his introduction.

Two final math books I’ll read this summer are Arithmetic and Measurement by Paul Lockhart, author of the well-known, A Mathematician’s Lament. His Lament offered some pretty solid critical thinking exercises surrounded by much opinion about how math should be taught. I’m hoping the other books are less polemic and more expository.

And it’s not all math this summer. Two novels I’m really liking are Lincoln Highway, a super road book by Amor Towles, and City on Fire, the first installment in a new trilogy about organized crime in by Don Winslow.

Well, I hope you have a chance to enjoy any of those books. And here are links to the books, blogs, etc. I recommended in the previous post:

Math with Bad Drawings: Illuminating the Ideas that Shape Our Reality, by Ben Orlin. He also has a blog by the same name.

How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, and Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else, by Jordan Ellenberg.

Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe, by Stephan Strogatz

Living In Data: A Citizen’s Guide to a Better Information Future, by Jer Thorp

Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong In the Real World, by Matter Parker

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, by Simon Singh

Better Explained is a super blog by Kalid Azad


Numberphile is a super YouTube channel by Brady Haran

(Image by Gwyneth Jones – The Daring Librarian. License.)


I grew up in Silver City, New Mexico and went the University of New Mexico, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. After working for the U.S. Geological Survey in remote regions of western New Mexico, I moved to Tucson to attend graduate school at the University of Arizona, earning a Master of Science degree in Hydrogeology. While working as an intern hydrologist for a local county agency, I started doing volunteer work that involved making presentations in schools. At that moment I knew teaching was the path to follow. It must have been a good decision because I’m still on the path after thirty-two years. My teaching certificates are in math and science and I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Career and Technical Education. After teaching engineering and math and elective classes at the same school in downtown Tucson my whole career, I've moved to a different middle school and district on the edge of town to teach math. In addition to full time teaching, I am actively involved in the teacher leadership movement by facilitating National Board candidates, blogging for Stories from School Arizona, and serving on the Arizona K12 Center’s TeacherSolutions team. In January 2017, Raytheon Missile System named me a Leader in Education and I'm a former Arizona Hope Street Fellow.

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