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Mind-Stretching Math Riddles

by Greg Tang & illustrated by Harry Briggs

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-439-21042-9
Publisher: Scholastic

Although these math riddles can be fun, there is a major discrepancy between the character of the book and the age group it is intended for. Tang’s versified math problems encourage readers to tackle addition and subtraction questions in their head as well as on the page. With conceptual thinking involved, it is reasonable to peg this for six- to ten-year-olds, despite the ultimate simplicity of the adding and subtracting. Readers have to learn to group objects in counterintuitive ways—up and down, say, rather than left to right, or fill in blanks and then subtract—and the solutions at the end of the book explain any problems that have been too elusive or confounding. But it is difficult to see beyond these single-case scenarios; the groupings of objects used by Tang are too neat to be applied to the real world, with all its asymmetries. More damaging are the childish illustrations—cutesy, singing gingerbread men, hyper-cuddly bunnies—and the uninspired verse: “Canals and dikes and windmills, too, / Grassy fields and skies of blue. / In Holland spring’s the time of year / For pretty flowers far and near.” Difficult to imagine ten-year-olds enamored of that. (Picture book. 6-10)