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Easy as Pi: Math Literacy at the library


Need to brush up on your math skills for a new job? Have major math anxiety? Love math and want to explore new books on the topic? No matter where you are on the math love/hate scale, Crawfordsville District Public Library has prime resources — many with titles on the punny side — to assist with math literacy.

A general grasp of math is helpful when comparing mortgage or credit card rates, deciding on your household budget, or figuring out how much paint you need to cover your living room walls. Titles to help you brush up on your math skills are: “That Figures!: A Crash Course in Math,” by Danielle S. Hammelef (510.71 Ham); “The Mathematics of Everyday Life” (Great Courses 510 Mat); and “Math for Real Life: Teaching Practical Uses for Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry,” by Jim Libby (510.7 Lib).

We often encounter data or statistics when someone is trying to influence us, such as in a TV commercial, or illustrate a point. Statistics can be interpreted in different ways, so it helps to understand how they are collected and calculated and for what purpose. The library carries resources on understanding statistics, including: “Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data,” by Charles J. Wheelan (519.6 Whe); “Statistics Done Wrong: The Woefully Complete Guide,” by Alex Reinhart (519.5 Rei); and “Business Statistics for Dummies,” by Alan Anderson (519.5 And).

Linking math to an activity many children already enjoy or think might be exciting provides a hook for learning and loving math in these titles: “It’s a Numbers Game!: Basketball: The Math Behind the Perfect Bounce Pass, the Buzzer-beating Bank Shot, and so Much More!” by James Buckley, Jr. (j 796.323 Buc); “Design a Skyscraper,” by Hilary Koll (j 510.76 Kol); “There’s Math in My Art,” by Nikole Brooks Bathea (j 701 Bet); and “Outdoor Math: Fun Activities for Every Season,” Emma AdBåge (j 513 AdB).

Sometimes it’s better to confront math anxiety head-on or focus on specific types of math problems with help from such titles as: “How to Be Good at Math” by Peter Clarke (j 510 Cla); “I’m Trying to Love Math” by Bethany Barton (j 510 Bar); or “Graphing Story Problems” by Lisa Colozza Cocca (j 511.5 Coc).

The library also offers access to INSPIRE, Indiana’s Virtual Library, which is a service of the Indiana State Library and is accessible through our website: INSPIRE contains math-related skill-building modules for all math concepts and grade levels, e-books, sample tests, and articles.

Girls may need extra encouragement to recognize a love for math-related activities. As the daughter of a mechanical engineer and a mother with an accounting degree, I somehow developed the mindset that I was not good at nor interested in math or science. Fortunately, math-related tasks assigned to me during my library career forced me to confront my math-related fears — who knew that I would be asked to do anything other than reading books? – and I now love coding website pages, pulling data from our library management system, and creating budgets in Excel.

Books that can help parents and caregivers provide math encouragement to girls include: “Count Girls In: Empowering Girls to Combine Any Interests with STEM to Open up a World of Opportunity” by Karen Panetta (507.1 Pan). Biographies of mathematically-inclined women might also offer inspiration to girls, such as: “Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain” by Cheryl Bardoe (j 921 Germain, S.) and “Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine” by Laurie Wallmark (j 921 Lovelace, A.).

For those of you who already love math and science, the library carries math histories and books that are just plain, old fun. Histories include “Exact Thinking in Demented Times: The Vienna Circle and the Epic Quest for the Foundations of Science” by Karl Sigmund (501 Sig); “The Great Unknown: Seven Journeys to the Frontiers of Science” by Marcus Du Sautoy (500 DuS); and “Unsolved!: The History and Mystery of the World’s Greatest Ciphers From Ancient Egypt to Online Secret Societies” by Craig P. Bauer (005.8 Bau).

Fun and interesting titles for math fans include: “All the Right Angles: From Gear Ratios to Calculating Odds: Mathematics in the World of Sports” by Joel Levy (796.01 Lev); “Math with Bad Drawings: Illuminating the Ideas That Shape Our Reality” by Ben Orlin (510 Orl); “The Grapes of Math: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life” by Alex Bellos (510 Bel); “Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World” by Matt Parker (510 Par); and “The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets” by Simon Singh (510 Sin).

No matter whether you love or hate math, you can count on finding at CDPL a math book to entertain you, help you build a math skill, or get you through your next math test. If you need assistance with INSPIRE or to find the right math book for you, please contact our helpful library staff at 765-362-2242, ext. 117, or at


Theresa Tyner is the director of library services at Crawfordsville District Public Library.


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