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2013 August 8

Hard Math for Elementary School

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:34
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Hard Math for Elementary School by Glenn Ellison: (ISBN 9781489507174) looks like a book I could have used with my son about 8 years ago (too bad it was just published a couple of months ago).

The premise is simple: it is a math enrichment textbook, intended to take the topics of elementary school math deeper for gifted students.

The presentation is good, but the students will have to be reading at the 4th grade level as well as doing math at that level to get much out of the book.  This is not a flashy book with lots of illustrations and stories—it is just cool math, presented as cool math.

Disclaimer: I don’t have a copy of the book, and I haven’t read much of it. I used Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to look at the table of contents and a couple of pages, and saw such gems as calculation tricks for computing some squares (like 552=3025) quickly.  (The trick is based on (x+y)(x-y)=x^2-y^2, but the author wisely avoids algebraic notation.)

Reviews from people who have looked at it in more detail can be found at and

Glenn also has a book for middle school students: Hard Math for Middle School

2012 May 6

Name of the Wind

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:49
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I was going to write a longish post today about the field trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but that will have to wait until tomorrow, because I’m too tired today.  I was very tired Saturday night after a week of insufficient sleep.  Given the enormous sleep debt, I went to bed early Saturday night and was going to read for a few minutes to help me get to sleep (a strategy I often use).

I made the mistake of starting one of the books I had bought for the trip, but not had time to get to during the trip because my son borrowed it after finishing the only book he had packed after only two days.  I knew he would need only 2 or 3 books for the week, because of how full his schedule was, rather than the 4–7 he would normally read, but only 1?  What was he thinking?  Luckily I had been to a couple of bookstores just before the trip and had 6 paperbacks with me.  The one I started with was not very good, and put me to sleep fairly quickly each night.  But I’d finished it and couldn’t face the sequel right away, so started the book my son had just finished.

The book was Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  I ended up reading it all night, finally getting about 2 hours sleep starting at 7 a.m.  It is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in the last few years.

Tomorrow, I’ll have to go down to the bookstore to pick up the sequel (The Wise Man’s Fear), which is supposedly now out in paperback.  I don’t know when I’ll catch up on my sleep debt!

2012 March 24

Review of 3 popular physics books

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:21
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I’m not reviewing popular physics books, since I lack the physics expertise to do so, and I’ve not read any except Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces and QED (both of which I enjoyed).  My son has read those plus others:

But I can’t review those books, not having read them, and I’m unlikely to convince my son to do a guest blog post.  So this post is not about books we’ve read, but about some reviews by Bruce Sherwood (author of the physics text we’re using, Matter and Interactions): Good popular physics books.  He describes three books that sound like they might appeal to my son:

2012 January 1

Books read 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:41

Last January, I saw someone’s log where they had posted the books they’d read in 2010, so I thought it might be interesting to see what books I read in a year (I figured I probably read 100 or so books, but I’ve never kept track). So in 2011 I kept a book log. Even stretching a bit to include a book I finished this morning, I only read 98 books this year, and many of them were re-reads of books I had on my shelves.

One expected result is that the list is mostly fantasy novels, as that is what I most often choose to read to get to sleep at night. There were also a lot of children’s books or young-adult books, in part because my wife is a school librarian, and most of her acquisitions are stored at our house until she can get them cataloged (she has no storage space at work and not enough shelf space for the books already there—she’ll be spending most of this year’s Book Fair proceeds on more shelving).  I also read a lot of the books my son read, though by no means all—he manages to read about twice as many books as I have time for.

One thing that surprised me was that my reading dropped off during the summer, though I would have predicted that it would increase, particularly since I was teaching a heavy load in January to June, but had no teaching in the summer.  My reading picked up again in the fall, despite my being on sabbatical, so it can’t even be a response to the stress of teaching.

I did a lot of non-fiction reading, but not book-length pieces.  Most of my non-fiction was student dissertations, journal articles, and blogs, some in my field but many related to education instead.  These were not recorded in my book log.

I can’t say that I recommend all these books—they varied a lot in quality.

number Date completed Author Title Genre
1 1 Jan 2011 L.E. Modesitt, Jr Adiamante Science Fiction
2 2 Jan 2011 Rick Riordan The Lost Hero Fantasy (kids)
3 4 Jan 2011 Diane Duane A Wizard Abroad Fantasy (kids)
4 5 Jan 2011 Diane Duane A Wizard Alone Fantasy (kids)
5 8 Jan 2011 Diane Duane A Wizard’s Dilemma Fantasy (kids)
6 9 Jan 2011 Diane Duane Wizard’s Holiday Fantasy (kids)
7 16 Jan 2011 Cherie Priest Boneshaker Steampunk zombies
8 17 Jan 2011 Richard P. Feynman What Do You Care What Other People Think? Memoir
9 17 Jan 2011 Richard P. Feynman The Meaning of It All Lectures
10 21 Jan 2011 Larry Niven The Ringworld Engineers Science Fiction
11 23 Jan 2011 Mary Roach Bonk Documentary
12 25 Jan 2011 J.F. Rivkin Silverglass Fantasy
13 27 Jan 2011 Susan R. Matthews Angel of Destruction Science Fiction
14 1 Feb 2011 Jennifer Roberson Lady of the Forest Robin Hood
15 5 Feb 2011 George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle Windhaven Science Fiction
16 12 Feb 2011 Kristine Kathryn Rusch The White Mists of Power Fantasy
17 12 Feb 2011 Kristine Kathryn Rusch Heart Readers Fantasy
18 15 Feb 2011 Jennifer Fallon Medalon Fantasy
19 18 Feb 2011 Michael A. Stackpole A Hero Born Fantasy
20 20 Feb 2011 Raymond E. Feist and William R. Fortschen Honored Enemy Fantasy
21 20 Feb 2011 Stephanie A. Smith Snow-Eyes Fantasy
22 21 Feb 2011 Stephanie A. Smith The Boy Who Was Thrown Away Fantasy
23 27 Feb 2011 Fred Saberhagen The First Book of Swords Fantasy
24 3 Mar 2011 Fred Saberhagen The Second Book of Swords Fantasy
25 7 Mar 2011 Fred Saberhagen The Third Book of Swords Fantasy
26 11 Mar 2011 Thomas E. Brown Attention Deficit Disorder Psychology
27 12 Mar 2011 James M. Ward Midshipwizard Halcyon Blithe Fantasy
28 15 Mar 2011 Terry Prachett Night Watch Fantasy
29 19 Mar 2011 Melissa Scott The Kindly Ones Science Fiction
30 22 Mar 2011 Diane Duane Wizards at War Fantasy (kids)
31 26 Mar 2011 Diane Duane A Wizard of Mars Fantasy (kids)
32 29 Mar 2011 Bruce Sterling The Artificial Kid Science Fiction
33 3 Apr 2011 Fiona Patton The Stone Prince Fantasy
34 5 Apr 2011 Sherri Tepper King’s Blood Four Fantasy
35 6 Apr 2011 Sherri Tepper Necromancer Nine Fantasy
36 8 Apr 2011 Sherri Tepper Wizard’s Eleven Fantasy
37 9 Apr 2011 Sherri Tepper The Song of Mavin Manyshaped Fantasy
38 11 Apr 2011 Sherri Tepper The Flight of Mavin Manyshaped Fantasy
39 14 Apr 2011 Sherri Tepper The Search of Mavin Manyshaped Fantasy
40 16 Apr 2011 Sherri Tepper Jinian Footseer Fantasy
41 18 Apr 2011 Sherri Tepper Dervish Daughter Fantasy
42 22 Apr 2011 John C. Wright Orphans of Chaos Fantasy
43 3 May 2011 Janny Wurts Curse of the Mistwraith Fantasy
44 6 May 2011 Andre Norton Quag Keep Fantasy
45 4 Jun 2011 Janny Wurts Ships of Merior Fantasy
46 4 Jul 2011 Margo Lanagan Black Juice Fantasy
47 4 Jul 2011 George R.R. Martin A Game of Thrones Fantasy
48 6 Jul 2011 Marilyn Johnson This Book is Overdue Documentary
49 13 July 2011 Kitty Burns Florey Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog Grammar
50 21 July 2011 Catherine Fisher Incarceron Science Fiction
51 29 July 2011 C. L. Anderson Bitter Angels Science Fiction
52 31 July 2011 Richard P. Feynman Six Easy Pieces Physics
53 5 Aug 2011 Richard P. Feynman QED Physics
54 12Aug 2011 Severna Park The Annunciate Science Fiction
55 13 Aug 2011 Garth Nix Sabriel Fantasy
56 22 Aug 2011 Karen Ripley Prisoner of Dreams Science Fiction
57 24 Aug 2011 Robin McKinley Spindle’s End Fantasy
58 28 Aug 2011 Brent Weeks The Black Prism Fantasy
59 3 Sep 2011 Garth Nix Lirael Fantasy
60 4 Sep 2011 David Weber Out of the Dark Science Fiction
61 10 Sep 2011 Ursula LeGuin Left Hand of Darkness Science Fiction
62 11 Sep 2011 Simon R. Green The Man with the Golden Torc Fantasy
63 15 Sep 2011 Simon R. Green Daemons Are Forever Fantasy
64 17 Sep 2011 David Lodge Deaf Sentence Fiction
65 18 Sep 2011 Michael Winerip Adam Canfield, Watch Your Back! Fiction
66 22 Sep 2011 Derek Landy Skulduggery Pleasant: Scepter of the Ancients Fantasy (kids)
67 23 Sep 2011 Derek Landy Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire Fantasy (kids)
68 24 Sep 2011 Derek Landy Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones Fantasy (kids)
69 27 Sep 2011 Diana Marcellas Mother Ocean, Daughter Sea Fantasy
70 30 Sep 2011 Diana Marcellas The Sea Lark’s Song Fantasy
71 3 Oct 2011 Diana Marcellas Twilight Rising, Serpent’s Dream Fantasy
72 6 Oct 2011 Henry Kuttner Robots Have No Tails Science Fiction
73 8 Oct 2011 Laurie J. Marks Delan the Mislaid Fantasy
74 9 Oct 2011 Laurie J. Marks The Moonbane Mage Fantasy
75 11 Oct 2011 Eleanor Aranson A Woman of the Iron People: In the Light of Sigma Draconis Science Fiction
76 13 Oct 2011 Eleanor Aranson A Woman of the Iron People: Changing Women Science Fiction
77 16 Oct 2011 Nancy Kress The White Pipes Fantasy
78 19 Oct 2011 M.T. Anderson Agent Q, or the Smell of Danger Fantasy (kids)
79 20 Oct 2011 Elizabeth Bear Dust Science Fiction
80 21 Oct 2011 Elizabeth Bear Chill Science Fiction
81 23 Oct 2011 Elizabeth Bear Grail Science Fiction
82 25 Oct 2011 Michael Winerip Adam Canfield, the Last Reporter Fiction
83 26 Oct 2011 Robert Lane Greene You Are What You Speak Linguistics
84 27 Oct 2011 Keith Laumer Once There Was a Giant Science Fiction
85 28 Oct 2011 William Alexander 52 Loaves Memoir
86 31 Oct 2011 Harry Harrison A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! Science Fiction
87 27 Nov 2011 Paula Volsky Illusion Fantasy
88 28 Nov 2011 Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick Feynman graphic “novel”biography
89 3 Dec 2011 Paula Volsky The Sorcerer’s Lady Fantasy
90 8 Dec 2011 Paula Volsky The Sorcerer’s Heir Fantasy
91 13 Dec 2011 Paula Volsky The Sorcerer’s Curse Fantasy
92 17 Dec 2011 Sherri Tepper A Plague of Angels Fantasy
93 23 Dec 2011 Charles Stross Saturn’s Children Science Fiction
94 24 Dec 2011 Garth Nix Lirael Fantasy
95 25 Dec 2011 Garth Nix Abhorsen Fantasy
96 26 Dec 2011 Tamora Pierce Beka Cooper Fantasy
97 29 Dec 2011 Kage Baker The House of the Stag Fantasy
98 1 Jan 2012 Emma Bull Territory Fantasy

2011 November 14

Homeschoolers in fiction

Filed under: home school — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 00:45
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Secular Homeschooling Magazine just published a review by Deborah Markus, a homeschooling parent, of children’s literature about home-schooled children: Homeschoolers in Fiction.

The review focuses mainly on recent work, so as not to be too biased by literature from an earlier period when universal schooling was not the norm. The reviewer was looking for good stories in which one of the main characters was home-schooled. She objected strongly to any of the standard stereotypes (home-schooled kid as unworldly, as not watching TV, or as socially inept), but seemed to have a rather low threshold for being offended.  For one book, which appears to be about a character who has been predominantly unschooled, but is switching to a more formal type of home-schooling, the reviewer objects to the way the author uses the term “home-schooling”:

At this point, Reger flubs a bit. Emily and her mother talk about it as if homeschooling must be school-at-home-ing. “I always kind of thought that if we ever actually tried homeschooling, I’d get to teach you a class myself,” Emily’s mother says. I know a lot of homeschoolers. None of them refer to “classes” unless they’re attending something that someone else is teaching. Emily and her mom also talk a lot about assignments and tests. Ironic that Emily is utterly outside the box in the rest of her life, but can’t quite get past the conventions in this respect. She’s been out of school for pretty much her whole life before this, but as soon as they call it homeschooling, it’s all schooly. It doesn’t ruin the book, but it is a bit silly.

Perhaps Deborah would prefer the author to use one of the home-school jargon words for the change in educational style—but then who would understand the book?  I do know home-schoolers who refer to what they do as “classes”.  I’ve referred to the physics I’m learning with my son and another home schooler that way myself.

Deborah also objects to a quote from a character in Surviving the Applewhites: “Education is an adventurous quest for the meaning of life, involving an ability to think things through.”  Granted, that is not the best line ever written, but the book itself is a fun read.

Overall, the list of books and the reviews are useful, if you tone down the indignation a notch or two.



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