Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Boy Who Loved Math: the Improbable Life of Paul Erdos

The Boy Who Loved Math:  The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
by Deborah Heiligman, pictures by LeUyen Pham
Roaring Book Press, 2013.  37 pgs.  Biography

     Paul Erdos loved numbers from a very early age. Prime numbers were his particular favorite. His father away at war, Paul was indulged by his mother and harried around by his babysitter, the frightening Fraulein, but not to much effect. Paul grew up endlessly doing math--he didn't know how to cook his food, or do his laundry, or even butter his bread because his mother did it all for him. He figured things out a bit when he left Hungary to do calculations with some fellow mathematicians, but he came to understand himself as well--math was all he liked to do and all he was good at, so rather than have a conventional life, he chose to have no home and no family, except his mathematics friends, and to live off them and with them, traveling from place to place, staying for awhile, and then moving on.  Paul's odd life style might have been off-putting to some, but most of his friends looked forward to his visits, even when he sometimes woke his host up at 4:00 a.m. to say, "My brain is open!"  It should be no surprise that Paul Erdos, math lover, passed away at a mathematics conference in Warsaw. Ms. Heiligman's book is filled with number games, sequences, and puzzles that are part of the illustrations, but also part of Paul Erdos's joy in life.  He would be glad to have a book about him for children, whom he called "epsilons."


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