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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

For Good Measure, by Ken Robbins. Roaring Brook, H B Fenn. 2010. $21.99 ages

"A FURLONG is 220 yards or one-eighth of a mile (201.168 meters). It's name means "long furrow" - the straight distance a farmer would plow with a team of oxen before turning then round for another row. Today it is used only to indicate the length of a horse race. A 7-furlong race is 1, 540 yards - almost precisely seven-eighths of a mile."

Leave it to Ken Robbins to create a math book that has stunning photography and so many interesting things to tell us about measurement. He is in his element when sharing nonfiction ideas with kids. We are blessed to have someone with such an abiding interest in the world sharing that knowledge and love with us.

This is a book about art, math and history. Ken Robbins tells us in his introduction that when knowing exactly what someone means in describing things 'does matter, we need standards of measurement that we can compare things to - units we can all agree on.'

Measurement can be confusing...and he sets a course in this book to dispel some of our misconceptions about it. It all starts with lengths and distances. Small units take their size from body parts...foot, span and hand, for example. Longer units from actions...mile, furlong and rod. Each is shown according to an agreed upon description of that measurement, and the metric equivalent is displayed.

It is hard to fathom that I did not know how a 'fathom' was measured. Now, I know it is the space between the tip of one hand and the other. He even explains that when we say we can't fathom something it likely means 'we can't wrap our arms around it.' That I will remember!

He uses big ideas and then goes from the smallest to largest unit in each category...lengths and distances, area, weights, liquid measures, dry capacities and time. There is so much learn and he helps it all make sense to me, as well as introducing me to some interesting tidbits that will prove useful. I knew that there were three teaspoons in a tablespoon but not that two tablespoons are one fluid ounce. That should help at some point, shouldn't it?

I also like the way he uses common objects to help his readers see the comparisons. This book belongs on our nonfiction is a worthy addition.

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