Kid Lit Review of “Shapes in Math, Science and Nature” by Catherine Sheldrick Ross

This book is incredibly interesting, very fun, and full of suggested activities that real people can do (unlike many books with experiments or crafts for “kids”).

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Jim and I both love this book, but I suspect we are not the intended audience, which would be kids a bit younger than we are. We have also found that kids sometimes resist reading about “educational” topics in their time at home rather than school.

But this author makes sure to include plenty of fun facts that will pique the interest even of kids who claim to be not so wild about math. For example, in the chapter on triangles, you can read about the Bermuda Triangle. In a chapter on building with triangles, you learn how a computer science professor (who worked on the movie “Star Trek”), helped design a giant (31 feet high) Ukrainian Easter Egg for the Royal Candian Mounted Police in 1974. The book explains why the author chose the triangle shape for the tiles making up the egg, and why this egg was more enduring than Humpty Dumpty.

Giant Ukrainian Easter Egg located in Vegreville,  Alberta, Canada

Giant Ukrainian Easter Egg located in Vegreville, Alberta, Canada

In the chapter on squares, you learn about mazes, and how one maze in the abbey of St. Bertin at Saint-Omer in France was so fun, the church had to destroy it. The noise of all the people in the maze was distracting during services (and no doubt interfering with attendance as well). And the information on circles is replete with entertaining facts, such as how the artist Giotto – using only a simple circle, convinced Pope Benedict XI to let him decorate the first St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. The authors also share theories about the Stonehenge stone circles in England. In the part on cubes, famous buildings are shown that used cubes as a basis for their architecture, and in the one on cylinders, you learn why castles were built with cylindrical towers.

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Along the way, you will learn math information too, of course, such as about the Pythagorean theorem, how Thales figured out the height of the Great Pyramid (and how to build your own), and all about Fibonacci numbers.

And there are projects galore, from making paper airplanes, kites, tops, and pinwheels, to making a model of a railway truss (the bridges built for trains to span rivers and gorges), to creating your own kaleidoscope, and of course, instructions for making your own Moebius strip. Some of the activities are tricks and/or games you can try on your friends and family.

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The colorful and whimsical illustrations by Bill Slavin enhance the appeal of the text immeasurably.

At the end of the book, there are answers to quizzes posed earlier, a list of simple formulas, a glossary, and an excellent index.

Evaluation: This is a fabulous book. The 9-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy in our kid test group loved it as much as we did.

Rating: 5/5

Published in the U.S. by Kids Can Press (New York), 2014

Note: Check out the Kids Can Press website for other great materials that combine education and fun.

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4 Responses

  1. I would be right there with your kid test group! LOL

  2. Oh, I want to go see that giant Ukranian egg!!! I have a feeling I’d love this book too!

  3. My 8 years old loves math. He needs this book!

  4. Fun, fun, fun! I want it :)

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