Friday, September 26, 2008

My verdict on Murderous Maths

Here’s an update on the Murderous Maths series. As promised in my previous post, I went out to look for the books, after the recommendation by Lilian. And whadya know, when I checked out Popular bookshop last week, they were having a special promotion on the series – buy any 2 titles and get 25% off! (The promotion is on till 1 October, so go check it out! I wonder if I can wrangle a commission from Popular…)

These are the 4 titles I bought:

Murderous Maths
Numbers: The Key to the Universe
The Mean and Vulgar Bits

Vicious Circles and Other Savage Shapes

I presented the books to Lesley-Anne and here’s what happened: she devoured them in less than two days. I must explain that while Lesley-Anne likes reading, she’s not a bookworm. Unless something really captures her interest, she can go for days without touching a book.

So it came as an unexpected surprised when she could hardly put down the books over the weekend. She kept coming to me chuckling and reading out the funny bits. At one point, she looked up from her book and said, “Aiyah Mummy, you should have bought this for me earlier, I was having so much trouble with prime factorisation!”

Funnily enough, her favourite is also Numbers: The Key to the Universe, like Lilian’s son Brian. (I tried to read it, I could barely get past a quarter of the book before my head started to spin). She also likes The Mean and Vulgar Bits but she found the first book Murderous Maths too simple. I had actually bought that with Andre in mind, thinking a summary might be more easily digestible for him. He only took a fleeting glance at the cartoons. Not his cup of tea.

Since the four books met with such a positive response, I went back to Popular and bought two more: Do You Feel Lucky? and The Phantom X.


Same reception - Lesley-Anne loves Do You Feel Lucky? She even brought it to school so she could finish it during assembly. The Phantom X was a little tougher going because they haven’t learnt algebra in school. Do You Feel Lucky? is really a fun read. I went though it and it explains everything so well, I wish it was available when I was learning probability in school.

I wanted to get Desperate Measures but they didn't have it (I scoured three different branches and Borders at Parkway, no luck). Finally, I found it yesterday when they re-stocked the shelves. I bought these two titles: Desperate Measures and Awesome Arithmetricks. I'm happy I found them although it bugs me just a teensy bit that they are the new editions (that obsessive part of me likes books of the same series to have a uniform look).

My verdict is that the books are great for reviving interest and aiding understanding in maths, but I don’t think they are suitable for every child. Many of the mathematical concepts are pretty complicated, so even though they’re explained in a fun and simpler way, some kids will still struggle to understand them. If this is so, I recommend sticking to the titles that cover topics your kids are learning in school so at least the concepts are not totally alien.

I’ve compiled a summary of the complete list of Murderous Maths books by Kjartan Poskitt for your reference, so you can see which one(s) might be more suitable for your kids.

Murderous Maths (new edition is called Guaranteed to Bend Your Brain) – general summary of maths and the power of numbers in everyday life, including time, magic square and angles.

More Murderous Maths (new edition is called Guaranteed to Mash Your Mind) – continuation of the first book, with discussion on topics like measurements, palindromes, area and perimeter.

These first two in the series cover all the basic concepts in maths. You might just want to get these or if you want more detailed explanations of specific topics, I suggest you skip these and go for the topical ones below.

The Essential Arithmetricks (new edition is called Awesome Arithmetricks) – goes through the concepts behind addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Covers signs, codes and even short cuts to times tables.

The Mean and Vulgar Bits – covers fractions, percentages, decimals, averages, means, modes and medians. Also has a bit on how to do mental calculations.

Desperate Measures – covers all types of measurements, including length, area, volume, weight, time, density and speed.

Do You Feel Lucky? – covers the concepts behind probability, including permutations and computations, factorials and Pascal’s Triangle.

Vicious Circles and Other Savage Shapes – basically about geometry. Covers different shapes and their properties, like circles, triangles, polygons, solids, cubes and ellipses.

Numbers: The Key to the Universe – delves into the history and logic of numbers, and the part they play in everyday life. Covers concepts like Fibonacci numbers, squares and cubes, binary numbers, prime numbers, pi and infinity (note: the topics in this book are comprehensively covered in GEP maths).

The Phantom X – essentially about algebra. Covers unknowns, factorisation, simplification, graphs, linear, quadratic, simultaneous equations and zero proof.

The Fiendish Angletron – about trigonometry and geometry. Teaches you how to calculate angles and covers topics like sine, cosine, tangents, triangulation and ratio.

The Perfect Sausage – covers all types of mathematical formulas for things such as area, speed, volume, acceleration, money, and permutations and computations.

Codes: How to Make Them and Break Them – unveils the workings behind number codes, including algorithms, substitution codes, scrambling codes, binary codes, morse codes, grid codes and even the credit card code.

There are 3 more books in the series but these are puzzle books, they don’t teach concepts. Would be great for kids who love maths and numbers games.

Professor Fiendish’s Book of Diabolical Brain-Benders
Sudoku
Kakuro

4 comments:

Lilian said...

Glad Lesley-Anne loves the books. Isn't Poskitt a genius? ooh, I don't like the new editions either.

Alcovelet said...

Monica, tks for such an in-depth review. No dice yet lah, but he sure is having fun with whatever he's doing. I don't want to get more clones and droids because they're really expensive, but he's loathe to use anything else, so he'll just have to make do.

monlim said...

Adeline, from what I've read abt RK, I'm sure Murderous Maths will be a fave when the time comes!

Lilian, I wish they would just reprint the old versions, or at least change all lah, so we can buy uniform series! (see, obsessive or what...) btw, borrowed Urgum the Axeman from the library... kids not too excited abt it though.

MMG said...

Thanks ,your blog is so informative.It would help our kids to grow.

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