# What is a Magical Math Book?

Formulating definitions is an important part of creating mathematics. The definition you choose has implications for how you sort examples and non-examples of a particular term.  The mathematical term trapezoid is a well-known (and often debated) example of this choice. Here are two definitions of trapezoid.

Definition 1: A trapezoid is a quadrilateral with exactly one pair of parallel sides.

Definition 2: A trapezoid is a quadrilateral with at least one pair of parallel sides.

If you are using definition 1, a rectangle (see rectangle ABCD shown below) is not a trapezoid because it has two pairs of parallel sides ( sides AB and DC are parallel as are sides BC and AD. Sorry about the bad notation, ie., segments over AB, DC, stilling learning learn how to insert equations in wordpress.).

For many, a rectangle doesn’t fit their image of what a trapezoid should be. But if you are using definition 2, rectangle ABCD is a trapezoid.  For more about why anyone would choose definition 2 over definition 1, go here.

While there are many un-magical math books, I promise that are many magical ones to be found. Before I share examples of magical math books, I’ll describe my process for formulating a definition for a magical math book.

First, I recalled the math books I’ve read as a student, teacher, and parent. I use the term math book to refer to picture books with explicit mathematical themes, math problem-solving books, math textbooks, and any other math-focused book on the market (electronic formats included).

Using my intuitive sense of what magic is to me, I separated these books into two categories: magical and un-magical. [You may want to do this for yourself. If you do, I’d love to hear about your magical booklists and/or your thoughts about this process in the comments.]  With my magical math booklist in hand, I made a list of qualities I felt these books shared.

Next, I searched dictionary definitions of magic and used these to formulate a definition of magic that aligned best with the qualities of my magical math booklist books. Below is the definition of magic that I chose.

Magic: A quality that inspires wonder, excitement, and delight.

However, once I came up with this definition, I felt something was missing. I have read math books that are good, but on a first read through, I don’t feel much wonder, excitement, and/or delight. Then I read them to my children or my friend’s children and something magical happens.  This has been particularly true of math picture books. Thus, I have found that the search for math book magic should be a joint one. Here is the complete definition of a magical math book that I will use to sort math books for this blog.

Magical math book: A math book that inspires wonder, excitement, and/or delight for both reader and listener.

There. Done. A definition. Now we can move on to the fun stuff.

Magical moments aren’t easily explained with words.  I will try my best through the blog posts to share the magic that particular math books inspire. I realize that what is magical to one person may not be magical to another. However, my hope is that this blog will inspire others to find and share their ideas about magical math books. In the [revised] words of the magical children’s book writer and poet Jane Yolen, my hope is that blog readers  will “Touch [math book] magic…pass it on.”

Have you already read a math book that inspires wonder, excitement, and/or delight for both reader and listener?  Connect on twitter @KellyDarkeMath and use the hashtag #mathbookmagic to share and/or share through process described in the Shared Booklist .

1. […] course, wise, humble wizard, what you say is true. But I think your books are magical too. And here are a few reasons […]

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2. […] 1) since the creation of mathbookmagic.com this past July and found twenty-four books that were magical for us. We will be taking a break at the beginning of 2018 as we search for more magical books to […]

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3. […] (and which don’t). This idea of objects sparking joy made me think of my own math books and my definition of magical math books.   I’m positive not all of these math books spark joy.  I’m curious about which ones do […]

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4. […] their child/ren with their math homework. While these books don’t fit the definition of a magical math book I’ve been using when selecting books for this blog, I decided to include these resources […]

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5. Belinda says:

I love your blog. I periodically read through it and get such great ideas for books and topics to cover with my daughters. Thank you for having such a thoughtful, well explained, easily accessible blog for math. LOVE IT – keep up the great work.

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• Thanks Belinda, this comment made my day! Glad you and your girls are enjoying these books. We are still hunting for more to add to the list and hopefully will be able to add a bunch more magical math books in 2019!

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6. […] out there to sift through. My plan in 2020 is to read at least 100 with Landon and to share any magical ones we find. Our counting book count for 2020 is currently 12.  Here is a post about the first […]

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7. […] the past 3 years, I’ve shared many math books with my children. We’ve found magic in 48 of these books. I’ve learned much from these amazing authors and illustrators and […]

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8. […] sharing this book with my children, I can’t share the “magic” as defined here. So instead I will share what I call the wisdom of this […]

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9. […] Math Book Magic is about sharing books that inspire wonder and joy and recently it brought me so much joy to give this set of board books to a friend to celebrate the birth of her baby. Even though my children have aged out of the board book stage, I shared all four books with my 5 year old and here is some of the magic that resulted (my 11 and 9 year old even joined in some of the fun). […]

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