The Philosophy Foundation Series Book Launch

On June 27th a crowd of teachers, philosophers, academics, friends and family gathered at Blackwell’s Bookshop at the Institute of Education to welcome The Numberverse and Provocations into the world.

These books are part of The Philosophy Foundation Book Series, a set of books published by Crown House, that challenge, engage and stimulate the imagination as well as being a practical resource for teachers/educators and parents to use. 

Andrew Day’s The Numberverse which was released on June 30th is a maths book designed to help teachers teach maths through enquiry, putting students at the heart of lessons and letting their curiosity drive it. 

At the launch Andy ran a session from his book where he puts a number line on the floor, and then asks, ‘Is there anything in-between the numbers?’. ‘Yes’, says one attendee, ‘Show us’ replies Andy. On pieces of paper in different colour they step forward and write 0.5, 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 and so on, placing them eqi distance between the whole (or as I would find out later that evening ‘natural’ numbers) numbers. ‘Is there anything else between the numbers?’ Andy asks, ‘Yes’, replies another and steps forward to show us. Through a series of comments, discussions and questions we soon find ourselves talking about infinity, ‘real’ numbers, and whether there are more numbers in-between the natural numbers than the natural numbers themselves. Andy does this session with Year 3 classes (aged 7/8) and above, and it is one of many activities on fractions, or the ‘in-betweeny-bits’, designed to make fractions more understandable.

Andy says in his introduction that “I’m putting The Numberverse out there now for two kinds of people: teachers looking for ways to get their more reluctant pupils into maths, and people who liked school generally but not maths (probably the latter group are the pupils from the first group but grown up).

“The evidence I have [that the book works] is anecdotal. Feedback from head teachers is very often positive. They want to instil a risk-taking, creative, exploratory attitude in all their classrooms. They want all their children to have high self-esteem and to believe they can improve at maths. But it’s hard. It’s also difficult to reconcile with the barrage of targets, levels, directives and schemes through which a teacher has to pick her way.

“One assumption I have made is that the teacher can get the class’s attention and manage behaviour to positive levels. I am as aware as anyone that those conditions are not always in place. I do know, however, that the material and techniques in this book can help win over a class, as part of an overall strategy for both ruling and entertaining the young.”

Next up was David Birch, whose book Provocations: Philosophy for Secondary Schools has already received excellent reviews, including one from Michelle Sowey in Australia, having been released in February this year. David put the following objects on the floor: a banana, a mobile phone, Provocations and a chocolate bar, and then asked us to put them in order from the most to the least natural.

So, what order would you put them in? What do we mean by natural? Is something man-made natural? Are we natural? Is anything more natural than anything else? There was a fair amount of disagreement around these issues, and if you use David’s book his chapter on ‘Nature’ looks at the many varying ideas around nature, our relationship and responsibility (or not) towards it, including considering whether we should protect all natural things.

From Provocations:

“Smallpox has existed for at least 3,000 years and its rash can be seen on the faces of Egyptian mummies. In the 20th century alone an estimated 300 million people died from it. It is a disease caused by the variola virus; its most conspicuous symptom is blistering which develops all over the body, even in the mouth and throat, but mostly on the face and arms. It kills approximately a third of all those infected.

“Though there is no cure, smallpox was officially eradicated in 1979. The variola virus, however, still exists. It is preserved in two high-security facilities, one in Russia and the other in the US. The World Health Organisation (WHO), which was instrumental in its eradication, has been calling for its complete destruction for decades.

“The request by WHO has raised concern. It has been argued that if the virus were to be destroyed, it would be the first instance of humans intentionally acting with the explicit goal of eliminating another life form from the planet. It would constitute an unthinking disregard for nature. In arguing for the conservation of species, the biologist David Ehrenfeld has said, ‘they should be conserved because they exist and because this existence is itself but the present expression of a continuing historical process of immense antiquity and majesty.’

“The deliberate extinction of a species – the total annihilation of a life form – is perhaps an act worthy of moral scrutiny.”

Both of these books are available from all good booksellers and from The Philosophy Foundation Shop for £14.99. 

Posted by on 25th July 2014 at 12:00am