Overall Review & Reflection
Love and Math is a really good story about the struggles of being a mathematician, and it is also about the author’s own struggle with facing antisemitism in Russia during the Cold War. Frenkel was originally interested in studying only all things Physics, but a Professor at the University took Frenkel under his wing and opened his eyes to the beauty of mathematics. In his book Love and Math, Edward Frenkel aims to show his readers the true beauty of mathematics and how seemingly different concepts of math are actually connected in some way.
My favorite part of this book was Frenkel’s effort to make the book relatable for readers from any background. What I really liked about this book was that whenever possible, Frenkel used an analogy to make the idea or definition relatable for readers. For example, one of the analogies from the book that I really liked was Frenkel’s analogy that illustrated the concept of one-to-one correspondence. He said that if you have 5 pencils and 5 pens, then there is a pencil for every pen. This analogy used familiar objects and a visual of placing a pen and a pencil together, instead of just including the technical definition of the concept, which is what made the concept more accessible to readers who do not have a math background. At the beginning of the book, Frenkel also includes a warning about the chapters that are really math-heavy and cover the more abstract ideas. He told readers to feel free to skip those chapters, which I found funny but also useful advice.
I selected this book because I too have a love of math, and I was hoping that this book would show me more things that I could love about math. What I found out after reading this book is that the math that I love is much different than the math that Frenkel loves, and that is okay. There were parts in this book that I found very challenging, even as a math major. Reading this book made me realize that the math that I know seems very limited, and there is so much more out there to explore.
Connections to Teaching
In the book, I noticed many themes that relate to my future career as a teacher. For example, at one point in the book, Frenkel discusses about his newfound appreciation for teachers after acting as a mentor. He says, “It’s hard work being a teacher! ...You have to sacrifice a lot, not asking for anything in return,… [but] the rewards can be tremendous” (129).
Another theme that I noticed in the book was collaboration. Collaboration is a really important idea because so many people believe that Mathematics is an independent art. Frenkel attributes his success to collaborating with peers, mentors, and other leaders in the Math community. He admits that a lot of what he learned was learned by communicating and sharing ideas with others. This is a sentiment that I want present in my classroom. I want my students to feel welcome to share their ideas and learn from their peers. I can teach my students about all of the math that I know, but I think that they will benefit most by sharing and understanding new ideas from their peers.
Another idea from the book that I found really useful for teaching was the idea that different people have different interests. Frenkel mentiones that each of his mentors and colleagues were mathematicians, but they were each interested in different areas of math. As teachers, we need to recognize that our students are different, and they each bring in their own experiences and interests into the classroom. I think that striving to really get to know our students and trying to attend to each of their different interests can make learning more engaging and enjoyable for all of my students.
Overall, this was a really great read, though a bit difficult to follow at times.