Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Tip-of-the-hat...

A few years back someone on the Web asked what books people had especially enjoyed or found important in their path to mathematics. A book I was completely unfamiliar with, “Mathematics: A Human Endeavor” by Harold R. Jacobs, got several very favorable mentions. Having never heard of it I was curious about it, and figured if I ever ran into it I’d get a copy. About a year ago I stumbled upon it for a dollar :))) at a used book sale and snapped it up. It’s gone through several editions since the original 1970 volume which is what I got  — by then I was in college, easily explaining how I had missed this volume that is for a middle or high school level.
Anyway, it is indeed a wonderful text (with a Foreword, incidentally by Martin Gardner), especially for its time when most school volumes were pretty dry and boringly pedagogic; Jacobs’ love for his subject shines through, as well as his desire, way back then, to make math attractive to others. He wrote several other math volumes as well, all of which get high ratings on Amazon, and I think several may be used especially by the homeschooling crowd:

I briefly mentioned the volume on Twitter awhile back, and again some folks responded with  fond memories of it. So I'm surprised by how little biographical information I could find about Mr. Jacobs on the Web. He did at one time receive the ‘Most Outstanding High School Mathematics Teacher in Los Angeles’ award, and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching in 1988. I assume he is retired and still living (at least I found no obituary for him); at any rate he seemed like someone deserving a tip-of-the-hat; doing early on what so many are striving more visibly to do these days in the direction of improving and broadening math education.

If anyone can fill in a little more information about Mr. Jacobs, or simply has fond memories of his books or personal encounters with him to pass on, I’d be pleased to hear of such.

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