There are actually two Mathematicians are People, Too books – a volume one and a volume two. They both have the same format and style and are written by Luetta Reimer and Wilbert Reimer.
Recently on a forum, someone asked if these books are math books or history books. Well, that’s a great question. They are living books for sure. And because they are living, they are multi-faceted. They are math and history; you can certainly call them math history. But they also are good biographies. And they incorporate science and geography as well. So like any quality living book, they are hard to pin down to one particular label. This is the kind of book a Charlotte Mason educator loves – a book full of ideas to digest.
Each book has 15 chapters, and each chapter is a biographical sketch of a mathematician. Where each chapter begins, there is a full page black and white illustration on the left. Those images are great for photocopying onto notebooking pages for your math journal. The mathematicians are arranged chronologically within each book and include men and women from many nations. The chapters don’t try to capture every detail about the mathematician, running from birth to death in a boring list of facts. Instead they focus on one or more key narratives from that person’s life which illustrate his discoveries or his character. A real effort has been made to select humorous, exciting, and inspiring stories. Here is a complete chapter from volume 1 — Pythagoras.
Mathematicians in Volume 1
Thales, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Hypatia, Napier, Galileo, Pascal, Newton, Euler, Lagrange, Germain, Gauss, Galois, Noether, and Ramanujan
Mathematicians in Volume 2
Euclid, Khayyam, Fibonacci, Cardano, Descartes, Fermat, Agnesi, Banneker, Babbage, Somerville, Abel, Lovelace, Kovalevsky, Einstein, and Polya
These are math books with words, not numbers. So math concepts are the focus, not arithmetic functions. Of course, if you want to use Mathematicians are People, Too as a jumping off point for a study of geometry or algebra, for example, you certainly could! In fact, that’s exactly how I see these books. They are engaging narratives that encourage further investigation. As you read, you’ll see lots of tangents you can choose to explore.
How can you use these books? Well, if you’re already using a living approach to math, these volumes fit perfectly with a study of math history. If you desire to shift towards a living math approach but aren’t there yet, this book is also a good choice. You could choose any mathematician and read just one chapter. Your children could see that mathematicians really aren’t boring guys and gals! And math is actually much more than multiplying and dividing. Or these books could add a mathematical facet to a history study. Just read the chapters as you reach the time periods in your history lessons. If you need biography genre for literature, these short one chapter stories will serve you well.
For more ideas and lesson plans to go along with these books, visit the Ohio Resource Center volume 1 & volume 2. And for free notebooking pages for volume one, I’ve put together Printables for Mathematicians are People, Too.