Thursday, March 3, 2011

Using Math to Climb Mount Everest, by Koll, Mills, & Brice

Perhaps you should be Using Math to Climb Mount Everest, if you ask authors Hillary Koll, Steve Mills, and Russell Brice (yes, the Himalayan Experience guy). Their book applies math to adventure, with real-life expedition arithmetic questions that will help get the problem-solver to the top of the world. Additionally, the young reader learns about Everest expeditions and their history, as well as many of the challenges climbers face on the mountain. The book is set up in two-page sections with data, such as temperature graphs or training schedules, corresponding problems, and trivia thrown in for entertainment. The spreads are flashy, with photos filling the pages, and it's a fun book to look through.

The math is elementary school material for the most part. The authors give a range of levels of word problems, from basic addition and subtraction to converting temperatures and distances (look for the formulas you'll need in the back!). There were only a couple questions that didn't sit well with me. There was one vague question with two possible solutions depending on how you use the English language, where a change from 50% to 40% could either come out as a difference of 10% or a 20% change depending on how you interpret the question. The other one was a section on national flags where the question is specific, but the answer is general: "What fraction of the area of the flag of the United States has stripes?" They provide "3/4" for an answer, but the flag they show definitely does not meet those proportions. At least they ask for an estimation for the amount of red on the South African flag!

Their facts are also mostly good. The data boxes (thank goodness!) seem to be right on. The trivia could use a little editing, though. Yaks will not actually carry your tent up the mountain, but perhaps if you ask nicely they'll get it to ABC. Odell was definitely not Mallory and Irvine's expedition leader. (If he had been, he and Mallory would have been up to the summit and back before tea time on June 8, 1924.) Also, you should be sure to pack some headlamp batteries, but don't bother with the headlamp while packing your gear and clothes.

Overall, I like this book. It's a fun way to do math, the few mistakes are relatively minor, and set up if first-rate. Hope you like it too!

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