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The Grapes of Math by Greg Tang

The Grapes of Math, Greg Tang

“How many grapes are on the vine?
Counting each takes too much time.
Never Fear, I have a hunch
There is a match for every bunch!”

Greg Tang, a lifelong lover of math, shares the techniques that have helped him solve problems in the most creative ways! Harry Briggs’s vibrant & inviting illustrations create a perfect environment for these innovative games. So open your mind-and have fun!”This…clever math book uses rhyming couplets… riddles…visual clues to help the reader find new ways to group numbers for quick counting…A winning addition!” –Kirkus

Greg Tang has put together a series of counting riddles which challenge you to find short cuts to a faster answer. Each problem provides the introduction to a new challenge. The riddles are written in verse and encourage you to develop your skills in patern recognition, grouping, and multi-step thinking. The book will be as much fun for parents as for youngsters, and can provide the basis for spotting interesting problems in the world around you. Clever rhymes, hints, and colorful illustrations combine to provide plenty of visual and mental stimulation. The riddles focus on natural objects like animals, insects, plants, and fruit to increase awareness of the patterns occuring around us.

The riddles have fun names (like Fish School, Grapes of Math, Win-Doze, and For the Birds). My favorite riddles were Ant Attack and It’s a Jungle Out There.

The left hand page contains a colorful computer illustration provided by Harry Briggs. These are large and appropriately ambiguous to hide the patterns a little. Color and shape are especially used well to complicate the counting problem. On the right hand page is a riddle, containing a clue at the end. “To help you find the right amount/Group by fives before you count” is one such clue. At the back of the book are the solutions to each riddle.

Pattern recognition riddles help you to see squares and rectangles within more complex designs. You are also encouraged to see diamonds as being squares rotated by 45 degrees. Many times a pattern is repeated, and that becomes the basis of multiplication.

Grouping encourages you to add common sums. An example would be sets of (8 + 3) + (6 + 5) + (4 + 7) = 33. By seeing that you can add to common subnumbers, you quickly find three elevens and then multiply by 3 in your head.

The two-step riddles have you determine what the total universe is (usually by multiplying) and then subtracting the exceptions to get the subset. One example has a building with regular intervals of windows, some lit and some not. How many are lit?

Most people never get to do the fun part of math, which is thinking up new and better ways to do things that build on imagination. By allowing your child to see the potential playfulness of what mathematicians do, this book will help create a better sense of what math is all about and that it can be fun.

After you have had a good time with the book, I suggest that you and your child create new puzzles for each other.

Build new knowledge from repeated patterns, wherever you find them!


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