Tuesday, July 11, 2023

#BookReview of Ranbir: A Seven-Year-Old's Introduction to Higher Mathematics

Ranbir: A Seven-Year-Old's Introduction to Higher Mathematics

By: Mona R. Semerau
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: July 15, 2023
ISBN: 978-1639888788
Reviewed by: Trix Lee-Rainwater
Review Date: July 7, 2023
Can the unbounded imagination of a seven-year-old bring him to new worlds of higher mathematics? We’ll find out in Ranbir by Mona Semerau.
The year is 2020 and Buck, a seven-year-old, is in his imaginary solitary confinement for not being able to explain the significance of 1619. Ranbir, a smart kid in Buck’s class, responds to that same question with a “1619 is a prime number!” Ranbir mysteriously disappears after that, leading Buck to think that his classmate is currently imprisoned for his transgressions. Back in his imaginary solitary confinement, Buck ponders the mind game that Ranbir once introduced to him: folding a sheet of paper 50 times. Buck and his unbounded imagination started by traversing half the state of Nebraska with his red truck, folding the sheet of paper as he goes. Eventually, Buck reaches a point when he needs to use his calculator to figure out the next steps. Lo and behold, on his 52nd fold, Buck and his red truck whizzes past the sun.
When Buck is able to meet with Ranbir again, Ranbir starts teaching our seven-year-old protagonist about the concepts of decimals and fractions using a toothpick and beads and imagination. 1/10 is popcorn, 1/100 is styrofoam, and 1/1000 is a fluff bunny (or a mouse fart, which is what Buck prefers to imagine). At this point, Ranbir starts giving Buck exercises using strips of paper marked from 1 to 10 but with the gaps between each number increasing not by the same amount but by multiplying. Here, Buck gets introduced to the world of logarithmic scale and the concept of the slide rule.
Ranbir by Mona Semerau is an intriguing mathematical fiction that encourages readers to explore the wonders of higher mathematics by going on a journey through the imaginative and curious mind of a seven-year-old boy. This book begins strongly with the concept of exponential growth with Buck folding the state of Nebraska while riding his imaginary red truck. This was a fantastic concept but that adventure ended far too quickly. After that, half of the book shows Buck following instructions on how to make a logarithmic slide rule. I liked that the author was able to explain decimals and fractions to young readers using tangible representations such as popcorn and fluff bunnies. However, the book covered too many concepts with detailed instructions which may potentially hinder reader interest. There are diagrams but they’re too few and far between which may hamper younger readers’ comprehension. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it focused on just one concept and explored it thoroughly through the eyes of a child going on an adventure. Meanwhile, the occasional confusing transitions, such as Buck dreaming about the logarithmic scale one moment and then Ranbir going to trial the next, can be attributed to the wild imagination of the seven-year-old narrator. As an adult who has enjoyed mathematics since childhood, I appreciated the author showing that mathematics is all about patterns. It’s where its beauty lies - really.
Quill says: Ranbir: A Seven-Year Old's Introduction to Higher Mathematics is a math-based fiction about a wildly imaginative seven-year-old and his foray into the brave new world of higher mathematics.

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