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On The Job Math Mysteries - review

Here's a fun and engaging new math book from Prufrock Press. “On-The-Job Math Mysteries” has 70 plus pages of math problems and solutions which are based upon standards set by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The problems are based on real people who use math in a variety of occupations. Black and white photographs of individuals at work add to the real-life theme.
Some problems include helpful diagrams and charts.

This book is useful for advanced elementary and middle school students. It is not a comprehensive curriculum, but makes a fun supplemental addition to typical coursework. The complexity ranges from simple equations to multi-step problems which require more thought. The math starts off easy and becomes progressively harder, so most students might prefer to work through the pages consecutively. The table of contents has a nice breakdown of what concepts are needed to solve each unit. As an example, the master carver section involves skills in diagram drawing, subtraction, multiplication, measurement in feet and inches, diameter and circumference, weight in pounds and tons, decimals, percents, time in weeks and years, and estimation.

One of the easier problems involves an eleven year old circus acrobat. Cristian performs 25 feet above the ground without a net. The student is asked to figure how many stories high Cristian's high wire is, if a typical story is ten feet high. There are three photos accompanying the problem, and a brief description of Cristian's work, delivered with some direct quotes. Math is Cristian's favorite subject!

A three page spread on Ken Benjamin, Soup Kitchen Operator, has a total of seven problems. Students must read a pancake recipe and determine how to enlarge it to feed 45 people. Another set of problems requires the calculation of guest statistics; for example, “what percentage of the people being served are girls?” The text explains why Ken decided to start a soup kitchen, and how he relies on donations to operate.

The variety of occupations covered in this book is quite diverse. In addition to those positions already noted, kids can read about how math is useful to the organic farmer, beekeeper, heavy equipment operator, software engineer, kayak guide, air traffic controller, bush pilot, and more. There are 22 occupations mentioned in all. Kids who appreciate academic work that has a purpose and real life applications will love OTJ Math Mysteries!




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