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Advanced Math and Physics Made Accessible: Resources for Homeschooling, Classrooms, and Self-Teaching

Updated on November 20, 2012
Was this you all through High School?
Was this you all through High School? | Source

Redeemable Subjects

Math and Science are two subjects which, for many, are entirely at the mercy of how they're taught. Most of the people who think they just don't 'get' physics or math are probably just victims of poorly constructed textbooks and impatient or obtuse teachers. Here you'll find some books that make these 'hard' subjects both exciting and applicable... to the world of superheros and comic books! They'll get even the most disinclined interested in and excited about the world of physics and advanced mathematics.

Justice League to the Rescue!
Justice League to the Rescue! | Source

Superhero Science: Asking the Right Questions, Lighting the Right Fires

The Science of Superheros turns a natural fascination with superpowers into the beginnings of a real scientific understanding of the principles and natural laws behind the special abilities of our protectors: from telekinesis and light-speed travel to X-ray vision and invisibility. Although the science is less than in-depth, this book would serve as a fantastic introduction and a well-placed first step towards much deeper engagement in the 'hard' sciences. I would encourage teachers and tutors to also acquire some more in-depth write-ups of the psychological and medical case-studies used to talk about Jean Grey and Storm, as those provided are interesting but insufficient on their own. Perhaps interested students could also use these oversights as an excellent opening for doing their own research. Do be forewarned: if you or your potential protegé are would be annoyed or upset by broad-stroke debunking (Batman is the only superhero who is deemed "possible"), you might want to equip yourself with the appropriate "poo poo" attitude of nonchalance.

The Physics of Superheros, on the other hand, is completely unconcerned with determining the possible validity of superheros and their powers, universes, origins - rather, it uses basic principles of physics to determine things like the density of Superman's home planet and whether the invisible woman of the Fantastic Four would be able to see while invisible. The physics is there, but the math is largely estimation - which is the perfect approach in mine. Clearly, the author cares a great deal about both the science and the superhero universe, and gives us the Lab Coat Nod to allow both to co-exist within our perfectly reasonable and intelligent brains.

The last of the superhero suggestions is Inventing Iron Man: the possibility of a human machine. Branching out a smidge, it offers more of an introduction to subjects like neuroscience and kinesiology - both, of course, fascinating in and of themselves, but especially so when explored in this highly complex but also familiar context.

Hyperbolic geometry in crochet!
Hyperbolic geometry in crochet! | Source

Quantum Math and Science Made Tangible

The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics: a Maths-Free Exploration of the Science that Made Our World. Now if that isn't a winning title, I don't know what is - although I should add that it's not entirely maths-free (But pretty close, and just basic algebra-type maths). By the same fellow who brought us The Physics of Superheroes, this book explores everything awesome about quantum mechanics through the eminently familiar and engaging world of superheroes. It's got the history and application in there too, the who-thought-of-what genealogy and the how-this-theory-was-used-in-familiar-inventions that comes in handy at dinner parties or on first dates. As for intended audience, I would say that the average High Schooler knows enough of the basics to follow along quite well, although you will probably want to read a few bits more than once.

Bless you Chad Orzel! How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog is not even a little bit insulting, no matter what you may think of the title and its possible suggestion as to your intelligence. This is Einstein's most complex ideas and theories explained in terms of, say, squirrel chasing. The dog-in-conversation, incidentally, is unexpectedly not annoying. Not even a little bit.

Now the last installment in the Tangible Math portion of the curriculum is something with which I'm not at all familiar (crocheting) and one that fascinates me (hyperbolic geometry - see my hub on the new constructal law of physics) but which looks amazing and I hope someone can help me out with.

Here is a video by one of the women who started the project. Notice the "prop" behind her: that's a complex mathematical whoozit!

And here is an excellent article about what they're doing and how it might be used to teach higher maths.

Have you or might you use these approaches for teaching/learning upper level science and maths?

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    • buckleupdorothy profile image

      buckleupdorothy 5 years ago from Istanbul, Turkey

      I was very much the same - love the theory (saw the movie Pi, and apart from the self-lobotomy, was totally inspired), but just HATED the class. Such a shame. These books totally got me over my stupid phobia - I hope they can do the same for you.

    • stephaniedas profile image

      Stephanie Das 5 years ago from Miami, US

      Wow...this is a world that I never knew existed. I had a lot of difficulty with math in school, but I've always felt bed about not learning such a fundamental subject. This is inspiring!

    • buckleupdorothy profile image

      buckleupdorothy 5 years ago from Istanbul, Turkey

      My pleasure, and thank you for reading. I hope that you'll take the time to pick up one (or more!) of these incredibly pleasant forays into maths and physics this summer!

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub. I learn many things here. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up :-)