We recently encountered Funville Adventures, a lovely book written by mathematics educator, Sasha Fradkin and computer science researcher, Allison Bishop. This new book, published by Natural Math does a great job tickling the mathematical senses of the reader.
As we read the book with our children, we were fascinated by the story of Emmy and Leo, the main characters who find themselves in a magical world called Funville. The inhabitants of Funville each possess their own specific power. As Emmy and Leo meet more and more Funvillians, they are amazed by the different powers that each Funvillian exhibits, and begin to understand the fantastic things that can happen as a result.
In telling this story, the authors are in fact introducing the concept of a mathematical function. The characters themselves, or more specifically their special powers, can be viewed as functions. For instance, along the way we encounter characters who can rotate objects. In this way, readers meet examples of mathematical rotation functions. The Funvillians Rosalinda, Roberta, Robin and Roy are all able to rotate things, each at their own angle. For Rosalinda the angle is 180 degrees, and for Roberta it's 90. Then Robin and Roy can rotate objects through smaller angles as their special power (or function). Let your children think about it and express their ideas as you engage with them using this neat book. You might be surprised by what they say!
Other concepts relating to functions appear in the book as well. These include invertible and non-invertible functions, functionals (functions that can change functions) and periodic functions. No need to dwell on the math as you read. The math isn't even explicitly mentioned! Still, when the opportunity arises, stop and think, or better yet, discuss with your family. This book is superb for driving such exploratory engagement.
Throughout the book, the characters are presented with various problems that need solving. Problem solving in Funville is great fun, and we found that talking about their methods with our kids was an enriching experience. One great thing you could do as you read through the book with your kids is to propose problems of your own. For example, why not ask them if it would be possible for the Funvillians in the book to use their powers to fly?
Overall we found this book to be a very pleasurable and gentle read and we recommend that you give it a try too. It is a great initiative for introducing a rather abstract notion such as a mathematical function. Adventures in Funville is a captivating story, and you'll meet many Funvillians with curious powers. You may not realise it, but you will be thinking about mathematical ideas along the way. Enjoy!
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