There’s a seven letter F word that the mere utterance of which drives away the numerically faint-hearted, while, at the same time evokes warm and fuzzy familiarity to those fluent with the lingo of the mathematician. I‘m fearful to even print this F word yet, as I don’t want you, dear reader, to flee.
This F word describes an idea that can feel dangerous, yet it’s a vital concept that is at the heart of math. When there is a relationship to examine, the F word enters.
Funville Adventures by A.O. Fradkin and A.B. Bishop is a book that offers an easy slide in to the world of relationship thinking. We live in a culture that is mostly bereft of innocence, levity, and humor when it comes to deciphering the threshold ideas around math. No problem: Fradkin and Bishop let us leave this world behind and offers us a clean slate to experience ideas in a whole new way.
In the tradition of Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Treehouse books, Funville Adventures allows us to follow a big sister and her brother into a place where they never expected to be, but where they follow their curiosity while being open to noticing, to wondering, and to making connections.
Breaking with tradition, what Fradkin and Bishop have done in their book is to anthropomorphize concepts. Instead of being introduced to numbers and independent variables which describe relationships we meet children that seem magical. When I realized that this was what was going in on their book I had to put it down for a while and let my head stop spinning. The evolution of mathematical ideas is full of stories of brilliant, serious giants of thought. But here is a world of math populated with purple dogs, ice-cream that doesn’t melt, upside trees and children with super powers. The magic that is wielded by these children leave us asking, what’s going on here, how do they do that? We are led to notice things that are done can be undone, unless that the undoing erases everything. We see children making wheels turn. We come to understand the incredible, enviable power of making everything stay the same. Here Funvillians wow us with each of their unique transformative powers.
Numbers don’t have a place in Funville. Personally, I love numbers, but I recognize that a lack of ease with numbers often, for many people, obscure the underlying ideas that numbers are supposed to illuminate. Funville Adventures lets the reader experience relationship ideas, with both their range and their limitations. The idea here is to grasp the concept, let the notation, the lingo, the f word, function, come in at another time, but not here, not now.
Two children unwittingly slide into Funville. You can slide in with them. We all can be trapped inside this world forever: turns out the secret to getting out becomes obvious once you understand the ideas this world has gifted you. Maybe you can figure it out before the kids realize the trick to that particular bit magic.
Then, out here in the real world, we can hope for a series books giving us more adventures in Funville.