Many parents eagerly embrace living books when teaching their young children. Snuggling on the couch, making memories around books is lovely. Other parents use living books only for history. Biographies and historical fiction truly make history come alive, making us feel as if we are really there. Some families, however, fail to recognize the value of living books for science and math, relying instead on textbooks and workbooks, especially in the later years.
While some of this may be preferred depending on the long-term goals of the student, living books add a unique dimension to the study of these subjects. I particularly enjoy adding biographies of scientists and mathematicians. Living with these great men and women helps us form a deeper understanding of their challenges and questions. Scientific discovery doesn't happen in a vacuum. It relies on curiosity, experimentation and the study of those gone before. Below are some of my favorite biographies and series to help add a human equation to your studies.
Mendeleyev and His Periodic Table by Robin McKown is a fascinating look at the life and work of the man who brought Chemistry into the modern world. This true living book combines history and science in a way that foster curiosity to know more about this interesting subject.
Archimedes and the Door of Science. In this book, Jeanne Bendick brings to life the ancient Greek mathematician and scientist, Archimedes. She also authored Galen and the Gateway to Medicine.
Archimedes was such an interesting man and his discoveries so significant that you may want to introduce your younger students to him. May I suggest Archimedes Takes a Bath by Joan Lexau.
The Ancient Greeks were instrumental in laying the foundation for much of our scientific knowledge. Eratosthenes accurately measured the circumference of the earth. You can read his story in this wonderful picture book, The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky.
Often difficult math concepts become clearer with a living book. What's Your Angle, Pythagoras by Julie Ellis is an example of getting inside the head of the one who discovered the concept.
Scientific discoveries help us marvel at God's creation. They can also solve problems...and lives. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba is a fascinating look at the author's dream of utilizing windmills to bring his small village electricity and water. There is also a picture book of the same title.
Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks is another autobiography of a life surrounded by science. What I loved about this book is how Oliver's parents nurtured their son's interest in metals and chemical reactions. An example of what can happen when parents engage their children in real-life learning.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg of what is available for students young and old on their journey of scientific knowledge. There are biographies for every branch of math and science. I hope you will unearth some of these gems and ignite your own child's passion for the sciences.