Algebra Unplugged

by Kenn Amdahl and Jim Loats, Ph.D

ISBN 0-9627815-7-6

ISBN 13  978-0962781575

258 pages, trade paper, first printing 1995


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This is one of only four algebra books recommended by Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Also recommended in the back of the Cliff Notes book, Algebra II. We thank them both.

Algebra Unplugged explains the concepts, vocabulary and strategies of beginning algebra in an accessible, conversational manner, without resorting to problems for the student to wrestle with. Ideal for people who like to read, who learn best by reading, but who get lost, confused, and terrified when they face math. You know who you are. You thought you were smart, you get good grades in English and History class, but in math class, you think the teacher is speaking Etruscan just to make you feel foolish. There’s a reason for that. Your teacher does not learn best by reading, and neither did his teacher. In fact, he doesn’t believe guys like you and me exist. Our world of books and literature is as much a mystery to him as math is to sane people.Algebra Unplugged is the book you’ve been waiting for.

Of course, if you’re a math teacher considering purchasing cases of Algebra Unplugged to use in classes, let us rephrase that. Math teachers are the smartest, kindest, most intelligent people we know. We’d love to give you tickets to the Super Bowl, but we know that your pure ethical standards would not permit it. Plus, we don’t have tickets to the Super Bowl. But we love you. We really, really love you. Those huge, faceless corporations that sell you overpriced textbooks do not love you, and they do not love any math that does not include a big dollar sign. They secretly capture algorithms and equations and torture them in their basement. They keep their exponents caged and never feed them. Is that the kind of culture you want to support?? We didn’t think so. We sell only free-range math that has been fed a vegetarian diet, groomed frequently, and provided with regular conjugal visits with a consenting binomial or polynomial, depending on its life style choice.

Reviews and Blurbs:

Encyclopedia Brittanica Online

“A humorous introduction that stresses concepts rather than formulas to motivate the uninitiated or befuddled to approach the subject”(recommended additional reading, article on “algebra.”)

“One of our all-time favorite books. This book is aimed specifically at the math phobes. It is written in an up-beat, humorous style that avoids the usual “math teacher jargon.” Totally cool!”

A to Z Teacher Stuff

Algebra Unplugged, by Kenn Amdahl and Jim Loats, is what happens when you get a math-fearer (Amdahl) and a math professor (Loats) together in a bar to talk about what math is really all about. It contains quite possibly the best explanation for adults of fractions; somewhere in the proceedings we find ourselves dividing pizza by tenors, with hilarious results.

Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School

“Algebra Unplugged is unlike any other mathematics text about algebra. Through the use of creative analogies, the authors explain the areas that are often stumbling blocks for students.”
Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School

The Phi Delta Kappan

“It’s a remarkable little book by Kenn Amdahl, a poet and former math-phobe and Jim Loats, a math professor. Be advised that Algebra Unplugged does not take the approach that your high school math teacher and textbook took. It certainly answers some basic questions differently.

“Amdahl and Loats cover pretty much all the topics of first-year algebra and a great deal of earlier math that many kids don’t really have a grip on. And they do it all in just 258 pages of remarkably readable and often hilarious text.
“Both of my daughters read the book. One, a true math-phobe probably managed to pass algebra in ninth grade as much because of this little book as because of her teacher.”
Bruce Smith,
managing editor, The Phi Delta Kappan

The American Mathematical Monthly

“An excellent and enjoyable book. Worth having several copies around to loan to students.”
The American Mathematical Monthly

Appraisal: Science Books and Films

“Sometimes, despite endless explanations by teachers and dozens of homework assignments, students don’t always grasp algebra. Some ask for help, others turn to books, hoping that one will explain things in language they can understand. This may be the book they are looking for. Explanations are short, humorous, and non technical. The authors convinced this reviewer that there is value in sneaking up on a potentially intimidating subject in this way, although I was not so sure at the beginning.”
Appraisal-Science Books for Young Adults

Sheila Tobias:

“I loved it”
Sheila Tobias,
author of Overcoming Math Anxiety

Martin Gardner

“If you or anyone you know is frightened by algebra, then this entertaining, simply written book is an excellent way to overcome that fear. I know of no more painles way to master the basic concepts of algebra.”

Martin Gardner, former math columnist for Scientific American magazine and author of dozens of books on math, science and puzzles.

Theoni Pappas

“Ever read an algebra book for fun? Ever thought you would want to? Algebra Unplugged is just that sort of book- and innovative approach that does a great job taking the mystery and fear out of algebra. It’s not a text book. You don’t have to ever lift a pencil while reading it. Fascinating explanations of all the players in a first year algebra course. A must for anyone who is going to take algebra, dreaded it while taking it, or wants to brush up on it.”

Theoni Pappas,
author of The Joy of Mathematics

The innovative author of There Are No Electrons asked math professor Jim Loats to teach him algebra. The result is this wonderful book which explains the basic concepts, vocabulary and strategies of algebra. No exercises, just clear writing, humor and information. —  Grace Llewellyn in The Genius Tribe. Grace is now the Director of the Not Back to School Camp in Eugene, Oregon.

Dewey’s Tree House:

“Buy or borrow this book. Trust Mama Squirrel, it will make life much easier for your math students–and their homesquirreling parents.”
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