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OK, this is not exactly a Math Education question, but in lieu of a functioning Science Education site and because in middle schools Math and Science are often taught by the same teachers, I'll ask the question here.

My daughter just started her Middle School, and it turns out that in our school district there are no Science textbooks, despite the daily Science class. Apparently the curriculum changed, but the corresponding textbooks won't be ready for the next two years.

The kid is curious about things and is very good at Math. Therefore I'd like to get her a book (or a set of books) that would be simultaneously readable for a Middle School kid and informative on the Science subjects they cover.

Could you recommend such book(s)?

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    $\begingroup$ Consider any of the options at OpenStax (free to download): openstax.org/subjects/science $\endgroup$ – Daniel R. Collins Sep 22 '17 at 0:33
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not a Math Educator question. $\endgroup$ – JoeTaxpayer Sep 22 '17 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ Does she enjoy logic puzzles? I've heard of people who found their calling as mathematicians after reading Raymond Smullyan books (particularly What is the Name of This Book; and Satan, Cantor and Infinity). His books usually have a larger goal of teaching a famous theorem by the final chapter, but the puzzles are great on their own and would have been totally up my alley as a math-curious preteen. $\endgroup$ – Nick C Sep 22 '17 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. @user138719, she's quite good at Math and logic, I don't worry about that. She scored the top possible score on California statewide test 2 years in a row, 100% questions answered. What worries me is the lack of visible to me content in her Science class. $\endgroup$ – Michael Sep 22 '17 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ Modern physics and antiphysics, Baker. $\endgroup$ – Paracosmiste Sep 23 '17 at 10:06
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You could just go ask what the previous books used were, or look at what some gifted schools use for texts in 7th, 8th grade science. I'm not sure how fun/useful such a text is, especially if disconnected from the course, but nothing wrong with trying. Just because something only MIGHT work, is not a reason not to do it.

My 7th and 8th grade G/T experience was a course in "environmental science" that was descriptive ecology. Nothing wrong with it and fun and fascinating. Then a course in "introductory physical science", which was baby chem/physics with an emphasis on measurements and units (and some fun experiments like making fudge...and methanol). I don't really recall the texts used and the classes really were more instructor led.

Two books that many great physicists say inspired them as children are Microbe Hunters and Men of Mathematics. Both are early 20th century but still resonate today. (MoM has one woman in it, also, if that is a concern.)

I would also suggest the books by Richard Feynman: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman and What Do You Care What Other People Think. Very readable and fun. The last half of the latter book is about the first Space Shuttle crash investigation and is eerie in how prescient it was of the second crash.

You could also sign up for Things of Science. They mail you a little blue box with science experiments in them. I tried doing it in 5th grade, at my dad's urging, but was too young for it (was too hard). But smart middle schooler lacking textbook would be perfect customer. [If that doesn't exist any more, consider to buy her some other kits.]

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the suggestions. I love Feynman books, although, given his reminiscences about chasing women, that won't do for middle school kids. As for MoM, well, that's history of Math rather than Math; she got the idea that Math & Science are worthy endeavors, and now it's time to expose her to the content. $\endgroup$ – Michael Sep 22 '17 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ Feynman's Six Easy Pieces may be suitable. (On Math and E.T. Bell his Mathematics: Queen and Servant of Science has good content.) $\endgroup$ – Tom Sep 23 '17 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ (1) I don't think the books are racy, even if RF was. They are clean enough for a 12 yo girl. But agreed, they are not content. (2) You might also take a look at what they are doing (ask to talk to teacher). Maybe it is not as bad as you think. (3) Really, I can't remember any of the science classes prior to HS doing that much for me. I'm sure they built some foundation (as other subject, pre-HS classes do). But I just don't have a sense of real long term content. $\endgroup$ – guest Sep 24 '17 at 5:24
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    $\begingroup$ I did a quick Google and found this interesting post: blogshewrote.org/2014/01/15/… You could look for general resources for homeschooling or even just textbooks. I know this is what you expected from the forum, but take a look at a Google search and maybe it informs your question process. Thinking about it some more, I see a lot of homeschooling worrying about experiments (no lab), but then I bet they get that in the school. I really wouldn't sweat it that much unless you find out the teacher is weak. (break) $\endgroup$ – guest Sep 24 '17 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ (resume) If you don't like the setup, maybe do a small amount of book work (emphasis on unit analysis, different aspects of metric, metric to English, etc.). And do a small amount of experiments (the blog I linked had a great one on popcorn), but also you can get kits (don't make them too hard though...even if the kid is bright if you make them too advanced, it is a turnoff (I experienced that). (break) $\endgroup$ – guest Sep 24 '17 at 5:37
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Not mathy, but I loved T Rex and the Crater of Doom, by Walter Alvarez (a scientist), about why the dinosaurs went extinct. His explanation of the history of the question gives some great insight into the process of scientific discovery.

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I found this book a delightful mix of geometry, history, and engineering. Your daughter might have to skim of sections that employ trigonometry, but skimming in this book would not lose her the thread.

John Bryant & Chris Sangwin. How Round Is Your Circle, Princeton U Press, 2008.


           
The book is especially good on linkages. Other topics: packing, dissections, and of course, constant-width bodies (cover image). See the Princeton link for a detailed table of contents.

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I think there are a number of memoirs/biographies that are appropriate a young future scientist:

-- In Code: A Mathematical Journey by Sara Flannery (it's been a while since I've read this one)

-- Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (I'm reading this one now)

There are a few compilations of mini biographies of women scientists (I've heard good things about Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science — And The World by Rachel Swaby) but I haven't looked at them personally.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, but biographies of scientists usually don't teach science. Reading books about scientists to learn science is like watching sports to get fit. $\endgroup$ – Michael Oct 5 '17 at 4:44
  • $\begingroup$ I think the two I mention are different. They discuss their discoveries and show what the life of a scientist is like. They highlight the fact that science is a human endeavor, something that normal textbooks lack. $\endgroup$ – ncr Oct 5 '17 at 5:05
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I'll look them up. $\endgroup$ – Michael Oct 5 '17 at 15:24

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