Overview, inspirations and the author (here I refers to the author)
In my opinion, everyone can learn Math. May be these stories may enhance their interest in the subject. I am not delusional to think that stories will convert a student into a Math genius. Possibly, the stories get more a few students more interested.
It is not an accident that the main characters in these stories are female. It is to challenge the odd notion that Math is not for girls. Arithmetic stories revolve around Tanya and her rival friends. They are written with the Indian culture in mind and with Tanya being raised in a joint family. Tanya believes that girls can do anything that boys can, and scorns you if you deny it. The stories start with the 3 year old Tanya learning that she has two eyes and one tummy, and end with the 14 year old using combinatrics. Oh yes, there are several stories related to cricket – a sport popular in India.
Trigonometry stories were started with the idea of a high school romance. This theme also dominated the stories for Algebra and Calculus. These stories revolve around a smart math whiz named Sara and her boyfriend Johnny. She comes whenever her sweetheart calls her because she always wants to be with him. Although they are written in the North American setting, Sara (Saraswati) is the daughter of Indian immigrant parents settled in U.S.A. and is raised in large part by her grandma whom she calls Nana.
In some geometry stories, the lead character is Ms. Rania Ali. She teaches in a school located in a slum. Most students come there because their parents get a government allowance if the children are in school. The kids have. at best. marginal interest in learning. The great teacher finds new ways to get their attention. Yet some stories will challenge an average student.
About Individual Stories
Sara loves Nana and Posters and Ice cream
When my younger son started to learn Algebra he was confused. Because, he was interested in baseball cards and their prices, we talked about prices of the cards of different players. Subsequently, I wrote a player’s initials instead of full names and made an equation for the total price of two different cards. He was okay with it. Then we wrote only the first letter of the name and repeated the process. After that he just started writing equations with x and y instead of the player’s names.
Battle of the Nerds:
I have conversed with colleagues from Japan, Germany and Ukraine who were proud that the math standards in their countries were better than in Canada and USA. I ask them to prove the algebraic expression (a+b)(a-b) = a2-b2 using geometry and they fell apart. This story emphasizes that the concepts in different branches of math are related.
Trip To Langley Park
While I was a university student, I tutored a high school student in Math. In the first session, the student decided to test the tutor. He gave me a problem with a grin. I looked at him and solved the problem and then explained the rationale.
One day, my younger son, when 10 year old, asked me what a geometric mean was. I gave him the definition. Immediately, he blurted out “So the geometric mean of two positive numbers can never be greater than their arithmetic mean.” Obviously, we had a longer conversation about it.
Nana’s Bedtime Story
It is based on a bedtime story that I used to tell my son when he was in junior kindergarten. There was a silo filled with grains. A sparrow found a hole in it and flew away with one grain in its beak. It came back with a friend and each took a grain. Next time, both the sparrows brought friends so that there were four of them now. The numbers kept doubling, and the kid would fall asleep when there were 32 birds or so. He must have been doing further calculations in his dreams. By the age 8, he used to continue the doubling process mentally to get to 16384.
Cheerleader’s Sweet Tooth
I used these ideas in my pharmacology lectures to explain the difference between the zero and the first order rates of clearance of drugs from the body.
Can Smart Phone Use Enhance Academic Performance?
Thanks to a high school teacher whom I met at Tim Horton’s – a coffee shop. He was frustrated because the students were busy during his class on smart phones when he was teaching the rather dry subject of quadratic equations. No one in the class was listening to him.
Priya’s Geography Project
I came from India to Canada in 1968 speaking English with a heavy accent, and not knowing the Canadian jargon. As a result, many of my friends did not think much of me – no, the idea of the Indians being expert in IP had not developed yet. Sitting in the cafeteria, I was talking to a friend who was doing a master’s degree in geography. He had collected data for his project and was frustrated because he could not make any sense of it. He had gone to a particular bar and asked every one the question, “where were you just before you came to the bar?” He expected that there would be more people coming from nearby and fewer from not so nearby, and that should be the end of it. No luck. I knew the location of the bar and asked him to draw the graph in polar co-ordinates. Everything fitted well now because of a river near the bar and the nearest bridge being a good 3 kilometers away. Eventually, being a geography student he figured everything out. Then onwards he considered me a genius rather than another dumb Indian. This nearly 50 year old incidence was the inspiration for this story.
The dinner date and the Mountwin Park
There was an intern in my lab who ended up dropping from the university because he had failed his first calculus course. I was surprised and asked him about derivatives of some of the functions. He said that he could not memorise them. I asked him why he just did not draw graphs for some of them and take the slopes, he said, “What? Nobody taught us that”. Frankly, I was not impressed. So I decided to do this in these stories.
The author (Dr. Ashok Kumar Grover, Prfessor Emeritus, Mcmaster University, Canada)
Frankly, I am bored of my retired life. So I started this project.
I have had a full acadeemic career. After finishing higher secondary school in 1962 where I took my last course in Math, I did a B.Sc. Honours and M.Sc. in Botany at Delhi University, India, and then received a Ph.D. in Microbial Biochemistry from Calgary University, Canada. After postdoctoral training at Cornell University and Simon Fraser University, I joined the faculty at McMaster University where I am a professor emeritus now. My main research interest was in the regulation of pumps which expel calcium ions from the cells of the coronary artery, and facts and fiction in the area of benefits of antioxidant supplements in human health and disease. I have over 200 publications (https://scholar.google.ca/citations?user=QCHy5HEAAAAJ&hl=en).