The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos

Posted by: 

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman is a wonderful addition to your math library.

Heiligman writes a whimsical account of the real life mathematician, Paul Erdos. Erdos is said to be a cult figure in the world of mathematics. Mathematicians measure their degree of connection to Erdos and are given a prestigious Erdos Number. 

Paul Erdos was born in Hungary in 1913. He was an extremely active little boy who loved math, and little else. 

Sitting still and following rules in school was difficult for Paul, so his mother, who was a teacher herself, hired a private tutor to homeschool Paul. Paul stayed at home learning as much math as he could until High School, when he returned to school.

A famous mathematician by the age of 20, Erdos traveled the world solving math problems. Erdos lived an eccentric lifestyle relying on his friends for housing and food so that he could focus on........you guessed it, math!


A very generous and giving man, Erdos was loving referred to as Uncle Paul by his friends. The brilliant mathematician claimed that he would never stop doing math until his dying day. True to his word, Erdos died in his 80's while at a Math Conference. 

LeUyen Pham provides playful illustrations that are popping with math! Students who love math could spend hours looking at the pictures in this book solving the puzzles and understanding the Erdos Number.

While Heiligman focus' more on the personal side of Erdos' unique life than his mathematical achievements, she does a wonderful job glossing over some of the tougher subjects for younger students. 

Paul Erdos lived a very interesting, yet in some ways, tragic life. His two older sisters died of TB, his father spent much of his childhood fighting in WWI and was eventually captured and held as a Prisoner of War in Siberia, Paul himself had to flee Europe in the late 1930's due to Anti-Semitism and many of his relatives were murdered during WWII.  Although none of this information would be appropriate to share with young students, the author does share in a note in the back of the book more details about Erdos' life. Your older students may find the information very interesting!

This author suggests this book for Preschool-2nd grade but I found this book to be fascinating as an adult! After reading it, I immediately  googled Paul Erdos and got lost for a few hours! 

You can find The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos here