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9 Enlightening Summer Reads for Math Teachers

Summer is upon us, and that calls for books to enjoy while lounging poolside. We asked MIND Research Institute staff to recommend their favorite mathematically themed reads, and their picks run the gamut of genres from sci-fi to psychology. Add a few of these to your summer reading list for completely guilt-free and possibly enlightening pleasure. 

The Martian, by Andy Weir

The Martian book coverMark Watney is living an astronaut’s worst nightmare: being stranded on Mars. Despite having very limited supplies, Mark uses his math and science knowledge as well as problem-solving skills to plan out how to survive the next four years and get to the landing site of the next mission. The character’s humor, persistence and critical thinking skills draw you into his world and make the math and science accessible.

—Calli Welsch, Communications Specialist


What's Math Got to Do With It?, by Jo Boaler

Math has a bad rap. Many adults hate math and will work to avoid it at all costs. It shouldn’t be too difficult to remember that thinking, talking and any sense of reality were not a part of most math classes. Even after years of effort, our students continue to perform poorly compared to other countries. But, what if our very definition of math is inaccurate? And what if math isn’t a gift that only a few have? Can math be engaging, fun and accessible to all students? Jo Boaler states, “This book is all about giving teachers, parents, and others the knowledge of good ways to work in schools and homes, so that we can start improving our children’s and our country’s futures.” We need more mathematical people. This book sets a clear path for making that happen.

—Linda Himes, Director of Professional Development


Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball and Football, by Wayne L. Winston

If you’ve seen the 2011 movie Moneyball then you know how exciting and powerful it is to understand the statistics that drive success in sports. Mathletics captures that excitement by describing the performance of thousands of famous players with easy-to-understand statistical analyses, showing how games were decided and contracts renewed. Just by following the book’s many tables, illustrations and simple computations, your enjoyment of professional sports will be intensified, and your expertise deepened.  Even your fellow sport fanatics will be impressed by the Vin Scullyesque commentary that you’re likely to develop at game time. As each chapter answers some of the most perplexing questions and strategic choices that face managers, recruiters and oddsmakers, perhaps you’ll wonder why this subject wasn’t taught in high school, and how you could have ever played fantasy football without this book.

—Deborah Strunk, Technical Writer


A Mathematician's Lament, by Paul Lockhart

In this brief volume, Lockhart, a Michelangelo of mathematicians, passionately paints a vision of all that math education could be. As one who has seen a wonderful mathematical world that others ignore or are blind to, Lockhart grieves over the "soul crushing" machine of endless formulas, procedures and rote memorization. However, rather than dwelling in despair, he proceeds to reveal an inspiring picture of mathematics as an artistic pursuit of deeply creative human beings. It is a fascinating, thought-provoking weekend read that will challenge the way you look at mathematics, propelling you on your own quest for mathematical beauty.

Anthony Gusman, Associate Mathematician


A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle

While not specifically about math, this classic will spark any
child or adult's interest in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), and space travel in particular. I think about this story because of how long it will take us to reach the nearest potentially habitable planet using existing technology (what – 17,000 years!?!?), and thinking there must be a better way. So – this is the way! In addition to being great science fiction, this is an excellent story of good versus evil, overcoming fear of the unknown and misunderstood, and how you can make a difference.

— Jon Harrison, Controller


Mathematical Mindsets, by Jo Boaler

What struck a chord with me in this book is the acknowledgment that instilling a growth mindset is only one piece of the puzzle to inspire students to pursue and succeed in mathematics. The perception of mathematics itself needs a makeover. Boaler warns educators that commonly-held views of mathematics being about speed and memory is at odds with the beauty of mathematics inherent in its exploratory nature of finding patterns and making connections. What I particularly appreciated about this book are concrete examples of activities that promote mathematical mindsets alongside narratives of the problem-solving behaviors that emerged and ways those behaviors reflected growth mindsets.
Cathy Tran, Design Researcher 


The Game Believes in You, by Greg Toppo

Toppo, a former teacher and USA Today reporter best known for his investigations of national cheating scandals, is unapologitically optomistic about the promise of educational games to holds to transform students, teachers and schools. He introduces readers to the pioneering practioners and researchers in the field of game-based learning, and explores how schools are using game-based learning across all subjects, including math. Interspersed throughout are his personal experiences playing a few compulsively enjoyable educational games. Just be warned: before you finish the book, you'll probably also be downloading a few new games to try out.

—Christine Byrd, Communications Manager


The Story of Mathematics, by Richard Manklewicz

Aspiring renaissance men and women must seek out and embrace this multi-faceted and culturally rich book; upon its rather modestly-sized pages are profiled the many famous mathematicians who developed the methods of reasoning that cumulatively enrich our daily lives. Designed like a mini-coffee table book, and abundantly equipped with artistic illustrations, it deceptively possesses mathematical depth and integrity. By the time you reach page 114, you nod your head appreciatively at the idea that a set of beautiful mathematical instruments graced the table of a wealthy Italian as a status symbol in the early 1700s, and by the end of the book you are fully invested in the value of the complex mathematical analyses that today drive the way science and technology are pursued and interpreted by practitioners and philosophers alike.  It is entirely possible that this one book will prompt you to buy another mathematics book, and another, and another….

—Deborah Strunk, Technical Writer

Mindset, by Carol Dweck 

Mindset book coverThis is a must read for parents, teachers, coaches, or anyone who mentors or manages people. Is ability fixed or a changeable quality that can be developed? Why is it harmful to tell your children they are smart or talented? Based on decades of research, Carol Dweck shares the power of our mindset that permeates every part of our lives. This book is easy to read, but with the power to change your life and the lives of those around you.

Linda Himes, Director of Professional Development


Let us know what you think of the above, or tell us what you're reading this summer by tweeting to @MIND_Research.

Christine Byrd

About the Author

Christine Byrd writes about STEM and education issues for MIND Research Institute.


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