October 18, 2000 7 min read
Mathematics | Physical Education | Service Learning | Social Studies |
Spelling | Reading | Writing |


The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure, by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, with illustrations by Rotraut Susanne Berner (Metropolitan Books, 115 W. 18th St., New York, NY 10011; 264 pp., $17 paperback). This best-selling illustrated fantasy for young math phobics, now in this paperback edition, explains the basic concepts of mathematics through narrative. A boy named Robert, who hates math, encounters in 12 dreams a clever “number devil” who explains mathematical theories and introduces him to the wonders of numbers. Through the engaging story, the book demonstrates what numbers can do, introducing concepts ranging from infinite sets to Pascal’s Triangle to Fibonacci numbers.

The Principal’s Guide to Raising Math Achievement, by Elaine K. McEwan (Corwin Press Inc., 2455 Teller Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91320-2218; 144 pp., $27.95 paperback). The author, a former teacher/librarian, elementary school principal, and assistant superintendent for instruction, laments the problem of innumeracy and offers K-12 principals a quickly read, practical guide to improving the quality of their schools’ mathematics programs.

Physical Education

The Ultimate Playground and Recess Game Book, by Guy Bailey (Educator’s Press, 5333 N.W. Jackson St., Camas, WA 98607; 155 pp., $16.95 paperback). Contains more than 170 games, sports, and activities for the playground and school recess, including “tried and true” favorites as well as new activities that focus on cooperation, fitness, and lifetime sports. The author, a specialist in elementary school physical education, provides information about the educational benefits of game-playing, and explains why recess can be a significant learning experience.

Service Learning

Evaluating Service-Learning Activities and Programs, by David A. Payne (Scarecrow Press, 4720 Boston Way, Lanham, MD 20706; 208 pp., $34.50 paperback). Uses an extended case study to guide the reader through the complexities of evaluating service-learning outcomes and gauging such programs’ relevance to the curriculum. From question formulation to instrumentation, data collection, and application, the evaluation process shown puts emphasis on best current professional practices in the field. A useful reference for schools undertaking a service-learning component as part of the curriculum.

Social Studies

Issues in Social Studies: Voices From the Classroom, Co-written and edited by Cameron White (Charles C. Thomas Publisher, 2600 S. First St., Springfield, IL 62704; 207 pp., $46.95 hardcover, $31.95 paperback). Suggests that social studies is a discipline in “disharmony.” The low status of social studies—in schools as well as among the general public—results, the book argues, from the discipline’s being mired in controversy and unable to maintain consistency. It suggests that educators address those concerns by integrating teaching approaches that are both critical and empowering: those that include models, applications, and active student involvement; those aimed at developing reflective individuals; and those that promote the notion of a community of learners. The discourse on critical issues in social studies education should include teachers and students, the author maintains, and the book provides ways of investigating and analyzing what is going on in the field.

Words of Ages: Witnessing U.S. History Through Literature, edited by Tiffany Farrell Larbalestier (Close Up Publishing, 44 Canal Center Plaza, Alexandria, VA 22314-1592; 350 pp., $22.95 paperback). Allows readers to view U.S. history through the eyes of the country’s writers, leaders, and other historical figures by presenting a chronology of excerpts from letters, journal entries, novels, short stories, and poetry. The book’s more than 125 excerpts include eyewitness accounts of historical events as well as American literary classics, and represent a range of multicultural perspectives. The text is divided into chronological units that cover such themes as the American Revolution, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the rise of industrialization and its social critiques, the Depression, and the wars of the 20th century. Featured writers include Thomas Paine, Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, Frederick Douglass, Edith Wharton, Anne Moody, Sandra Cisneros, and Tim O’Brien.


The Art of Spelling: The Madness and the Method, by Marilyn vos Savant (W. W. Norton & Co., 500 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10110; 204 pp., $22.95 hardcover). A columnist for Parade magazine examines why English-language words are among the most difficult to spell correctly and provides a powerful set of tools to help improve linguistic and orthographic skills. The book presents basic spelling rules and their common exceptions, as well as a list of 500 commonly misspelled words. The biological, psychological, and cognitive aspects of spelling are investigated, including research on how the “spelling brain” works, and the ways problem spellers can use that knowledge to help improve their ability.


Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature, by Roberta Seelinger Trites (University of Iowa Press, 100 Kuhl House, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000; 189 pp., $29.95 hardcover). Written by an English professor who specializes in children’s and adolescent literature, this examination of how the young-adult novel is taught in the classroom stresses its role as a coming-of-age story that exposes the dynamics of power and repression in the struggle for growth and maturation. She argues that the central characters in these novels for adolescents are shown learning to negotiate the complex levels of power within the social units in which they function, such as family, church, government, and school.

Teaching Reading in the Middle School: A Strategic Approach to Reading That Improves Comprehension and Thinking, by Laura Robb (Scholastic Professional Books, PO Box 627, Westhampton Beach, NY 11978; 318 pp., $23.95 paperback). The author, a teacher with 36 years of experience, provides guidelines to crafting a successful middle school reading program. Includes concise expositions of theory and models for teaching reading to adolescents, along with sample mini-lessons that cover such skills as predicting, visualizing, using context clues, and comprehension strategies.


From Reader to Writer: Teaching Writing Through Classic Children’s Books, by Sarah Ellis (Groundwood Books, 720 Bathurst St., Suite 500, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2R4; 176 pp. $24.95 hardcover). A guide to starting children on the road to writing stories. Each of the chapters consists of an anecdote about an author, and each story leads into a writing activity. The activities, suitable for grades 4-7, range from the simple to the sophisticated and can be used as group or individual projects. Biographies of the writers and annotated reading lists are included.

Using Journals With Reluctant Writers: Building Portfolios for Middle and High School Students, by Scott Abrams (Corwin Press Inc., 2455 Teller Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91320-2218; 146 pp., $24.95 paperback). Designed to inspire reluctant writers, the journal topics are followed by nonrevealing, nonthreatening exercises to introduce writing as a means of expression and allow students to test teacher reactions. Further material encourages personal reflection and elaboration. The guide’s highlights include: topical chapter- opening quotes; multiple questions for each topic, to encourage in-depth responses; suggested readings and videos; and 45 topics for weekly assignments. Also offers suggestions for teachers and students to use in creating a complete language arts portfolio.

Writing as a Second Language: From Experience to Story to Prose, by Donald Davis (August House Publishers, PO Box 3223, Little Rock, AR 72203; 114 pp., $11.95 paperback). This guide for budding young writers observes that writing is not our first communication tool; and that, for most of us, it functions as a “foreign language.” The author believes that we must step back into our familiar “first” language—the spoken word—as our creative medium and learn to “translate” our speech into writing. With enough success, he argues, writing will become a second language instead of a foreign one. Stresses a process of learning to write that “keeps together the wholeness of our language rather than treating writing as some compartmentalized specialty that can be dealt with apart from observing, listening, and speaking.”

— A.E. Conrad

For more information on these books, contact the publisher or your local library or bookstore. To order, call (888) 887-3200.