Budapest is a city on my bucket list, and the illustrations of that city by LeUyen Pham in Deborah Heiligman’s The Boy Who Loved Math offered a glimpse of its charm. This picture book is a biography of Paul Erdős, the mathematical genius who grew up in Budapest as a child prodigy who loved to play with numbers but had trouble following rules and completing mundane tasks – like buttering bread. Erdős did not like school and his eccentricities may have been hard to live with – unless you were his mother – but Heiligman cleverly focuses on his strengths and offers an inspiring and engaging story for children as well as adults.
As she humorously documents this genius’ idiosyncracies, Heiligman gives him credit for his contributions and many collaborations, spawning the Erdős number (which calculates the degrees of collaborative separation between mathematicians and Erdős – Einstein was number 2 – before anyone thought of six degrees of separation.
I have The Boy Who Loved Math on my list now for gift-giving and as a reminder to visit Budapest someday.