Maths for Life
A unique combination of a warm-hearted story about a school class and arithmetic fun in comic-book form
Writer Edward van de Vendel, illustrator Floor de Goede and the most famous mathematician in the Netherlands, Ionica Smeets, have joined forces to show how closely life and maths are connected, in this book told from the perspective of a primary-school class.
The starting point for this sparkling book is the class’s dissatisfaction with maths. The children think their lessons are totally boring and old-fashioned. ‘What do those sums have to do with our lives?’ they wonder. Their teachers come up with a suggestion for alternative lessons: every week, one of the twenty-two students is allowed to devise a maths question based on their own life.
In enthusiastic language, Van de Vendel then sketches a lively picture of a happy and diverse class. All the children and their life stories are featured, and Smeets bases fun maths lessons on them. For example, Romée wants to know, as she is trying to wash away her first heartbreak in the bath, if it’s possible to fill a bathtub with tears. Patrick, whose dad is a pilot, asks the question: ‘What if someone built a bridge from the Earth to the moon and we started walking now, would we get there before we’re old?’ And Jens, who is struggling to cope with his divorced mum and dad, wants to know how many houses there would be for refugees if all divorced parents moved back in together.
The clear explanations are humorously presented in De Goede’s comic-style illustrations, as he imaginatively plays with reality. For Sven’s question about whether peeing in the shower is good for the environment, we see a cartoon of the teacher peeing, but also a visual explanation of the average person’s water usage per day, illustrated with icons of showers, toilets and washing machines. And when the class calculates how much people could lift if they had the strength of ants, we see the teacher raising a small elephant over his head!
The arts of storytelling and maths and words and pictures are effortlessly combined in this wide-ranging book. No one will ever find maths boring again.