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Oct 23 2014

My Brother’s Math Calendar

mathcover

My brother, a longtime math enthusiast (I’ve even seen him calculate logarithms in his head) has created an interesting math calendar for 2015 and is selling it on Amazon.

The math calendar is a typical wall calendar, with math stuff on the top flap and a calendar on the bottom. I’m tempted to describe the math info as “fun math facts”, but I don’t want to give the impression that this is for little kids: you need to have taken high school math to grok this calendar. I was pretty good in math in high school, but I’ve forgotten a lot. Still, I was able to understand the topics and the explanations (though there were some paragraphs I needed to read two or three times to fully grasp). And yes, for someone with a high school math education and an interest in science, technology, engineering and math, these were fun math facts.

I learned a fair amount from this mathematics calendar (usually I don’t look ahead in calendars, but I figured I should if I was going to write about it). Several items were thought-provoking and inspired me to Google for more information on the topic. I learned things about Pascal’s Triangle that I didn’t know, read about “bizzaro binary” (base negative 2), various tidbits about number theory, and details about famous mathematicians.

(The calendar marks the birthdays of famous mathematicians, but what’s really cool is that the calendar explains what those geniuses were famous for.)

My brother Steve throws some humor into the calendar. The humor … well, it’s nerdy and it’s a type of humor common in my family, so I noticed it immediately. To appreciate it, it helps if you’re a little nerdy yourself. But then again, why else would you be buying a mathematics calendar? Steve seems to be aware of the issue: in his intro he writes “I was unable to resist an occasional witticism [if I know my brother, he didn’t try very hard to resist – Bob]… some won’t realize I’m joking.”

There’s an important difference between my brother’s calendar and his main competitor, Theoni Pappas’ “The Mathematics Calendar”. Here’s what Pappas’ calendar pages look like:

PappasEvery day of the month has a math problem in it whose solution is the date. So throughout the year, you get 12 math problems whose answer is one, 12 problems whose answer is 2, etc. Big whoop. Frankly, they’re all pretty simple problems. Meanwhile, you have no space at all to write notes on the calendar: no space to write a reminder of your mother’s birthday or your anniversary or that party next week that you’re going to. Now look at my brother’s calendar page:

Days

It shows holidays and makes occasional observations about the numerical significance of a date, but it leaves plenty of room for your life’s schedule. To me, Pappas’ calendar is almost useless as a calendar. I’d happily give up the Trivial Problem of the Day for space to write my important appointments for the day.

I was a little surprised, when I got my copy of the calendar, that it wasn’t shrink-wrapped like the calendars you buy in a store. I guess that’s the difference between an indie effort like Steve’s and calendars from a big publisher. But the calendar arrived in perfect condition anyway.

Steve’s mathematics calendar is just $12.95 on Amazon (that’s less than $1.08/month!) and qualifies for Amazon Prime shipping. Give it a try.


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