Thursday, April 18, 2013

Now Affordable: Math from Three to Seven, by Alexander Zvonkin

Last year I ran a poll to see how many people would buy this book if the price were reduced. The publisher, AMS (American Mathematical Society) publishes mainly scholarly works, and originally priced it at $50, in line with the prices of their other books. (Yikes!) 96 people said they would buy this book if it were $20 or less, and now it is!

I loved reading Math from Three to Seven. Zvonkin worked with his young kids and some of their friends, and documents his successes and failures with them. He had lots of great ideas for getting very young children to think about deep math. When I read it last year, I had access to an online copy. I have just now ordered a real book, so I can turn down my favorite pages and find them again quickly.

The people at the Math Circle Library have been working with the folks at AMS to change the pricing structure for the math circle books. The prices of seven of the twelve books in the Math Circle Library series have been reduced to $18.75*. I ordered Math from Three to Seven, Math Circle Diaries (aimed at grades 5 to 7), and Invitation to a Mathematical Festival.

More about the book... Paul Zeitz, who edited the English translation of this book (originally published in Russian), said in his introduction:

As anyone who has taught or raised young children knows, mathematical education for little kids is a real mystery. What are they capable of? What should they learn first? How hard should they work? Should they even “work” at all? Should we push them, or just let them be?

There are no correct answers to these questions, and Zvonkin deals with them in classic math-circle style: He doesn’t ask and then answer a question, but shows us a problem — be it mathematical or pedagogical — and describes to us what happened. His book is a narrative about what he did, what he tried, what worked, what failed, but most important, what the kids experienced.

This book is not a guidebook. It does not purport to show you how to create precocious high achievers. It is just one person’s story about things he tried with a half-dozen young children. On the other hand, if you are interested in running a math circle, or homeschooling children, you will find this book to be an invaluable, inspiring resource. It’s not a “how to” manual as much as a “this happened” journal. ... Just about every page contains a really clever teaching idea, a cool math problem, and an inspiring and funny story.
If you buy it, let me know what you think.

*The pricing on the AMS site may be a bit confusing. They show a list price and a lower price for "all individuals". If you haven't set up an account, the price will initially show up as the $25 list price. Once I logged in, it changed to $18.75.


  1. Hi. I bought the book from and I'm enjoying reading it. It's written in a modest way and it seems very real because it describes real kids reactions when confronted with problem or questions. It also gives the reader a sense of evolution of children "mathematical thinking" and the way this educator copes and overcomes the difficulties found in teaching some concepts. I was looking for a book that help me to prepare some learning/playful activities for my 3 years old (in Maths field) and this one was perfect, because it gives me some real information on how he may react and how I can continue my journey if he doesn't get automatically to the wanted point. I'm also re-learning Maths in a more enthusiastic way than it was introduced to me first.

  2. Thanks for writing. I think your comments will help others. You may also like Moebius Noodles, a very different math joiurney for parents and young kids.

  3. Hi I actually read the original version of the book in Russian. Besides being a good source of psychological and pedagogical analysis the book contains the description of the way the classes were conducted and the materials used. I only wish one day the author looks at the current market and provides readers with his view on what we can use now for similar purposes. I would have liked to see what additional MODERN books he recommends, what he thinks of electronic devices and apps for kids etc. Some aids the author used in his book are not available any more and some of the books he read to the kids are a rare find as they are out of print. However most information in the book I am able to use and my kids are enthusiastic each time I give them a task from the book.


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