Guaranteed to cure arithmophobia

1st July 2005 at 01:00
Numbers will never be numbing with this book, says John Dabell.

Think of a Number. By Johnny Ball. Dorling Kindersley pound;9.99. www.dk.com

Maths anxiety is part of the national psyche, but why? The unventilated and staid teaching of the past has crippled the subject's dynamism and robbed countless minds of maths enjoyment and fun. What a shame Johnny Ball didn't go into teacher training 30 years ago. Imagine the zest and zeal for mathematics he could have injected into the veins of fledgling pedagogues. The domino effect would have been impressive.

Johnny Ball's impact in popularising maths has been far reaching though. At one time he was part of the cultural landscape with his television series and he's sure to be the talk of the maths town again with his latest book. Think of a Number is a page-turner that has been cleverly written and well designed - not dissimiliar in style and flavour to Carol Vorderman's book How Maths Works.

Think of a Number won't see many bookshelves or require much dusting because it will be hard to put down. This accessible and immensely readable tome is jam-packed with fascinating facts and figures that will appeal to older and younger learners.

You can discover the origins of numbers and learn that our place value system originated in India, learn some number tricks and become a mathemagician or throw down the gauntlet and challenge your intellect with some mind-bending logic brainteasers. The central thrust of the book is to promote a playful engagement with maths and it would be hard not to get caught up as each chapter offers a delightful mixture of narrative, intrigue and thought.

The book brings maths alive and covers some impressive ground. There are a variety of activities to try in class and heaps of interesting number morsels to nibble as you journey through the world of maths. Number facts abound and there's a stimulating section on shape where you can find out more about buckyballs, parabolas and topology. Learn how to make a maze, see why casinos always win, draw amazing snowflakes and find out why knowing your prime numbers could make you rich.

Think of a Number is a visual feast too, offering excellent illustrations that add even more life, allowing it to purr as a top resource.

Arithmophobia typically includes shortness of breath, rapid breathing, sweating and overall feelings of dread. Think of a Number is surely a book to knock these symptoms on the head. So, if you're looking to stretch your children's horizons to see farther into the distance then standing on the shoulders of Johnny Ball will help them become maths giants themselves.

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