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The Cartoon Guide to Algebra book review


By Leroy Douresseaux
February 28, 2015 - 19:58

The Cartoon Guide to Algebra cover image

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I first discovered the work of cartoonist Larry Gonick when I found an issue of The Cartoon History of the Universe, a history of the world in comic book form.   The Cartoon History of the Universe was initially published in comic book installments (by Rip Off Press), beginning in the late 1970s.  I can't remember which issues I bought, but it was several of them – until I could no longer find a store that stocked the series.  The Cartoon History of the Universe was eventually collected in three large-sized trade paperbacks.

Gonick has also adapted the format of The Cartoon History of the Universe in order to produce or co-create a number of “cartoon guide” books.  They include such titles as The Cartoon Guide to Genetics, The Cartoon Guide to Sex, and The Cartoon Guide to the Computer, to name a few.

The latest “Cartoon Guide” from Larry Gonick is The Cartoon Guide to Algebra, a comprehensive and also comical illustrated guide to algebra.  On its back cover, The Cartoon Guide to Algebra playfully asks several questions:  “Do you think that a Cartesian plane is a luxury jetliner?  Does the phrase “algebraic expression” leave you with a puzzled look?  Do you believe that the Order of Operations is an Emmy-winning medical drama?”  Well, The Cartoon Guide to Algebra promises to put the reader “on the road to algebraic literacy.”

I am not a fan of algebra, although I once was – for about two minutes in high school.  I would not bother with this book, except that I am a fan of Larry Gonick, obviously because of The Cartoon History of the Universe.  I found this “math book” to be readable, because I remembered some algebra.  I think that high school students that don't like algebra may not have any interest in this book or even if some of them will understand it.

Actually, I see The Cartoon Guide to Algebra as a book aimed at adults that need to learn algebra for some reason.  However, I think that smart young readers and teens, familiar with comics, may also embrace this title.  Truthfully, I would rather learn algebra from Larry Gonick and The Cartoon Guide to Algebra than from an instructor.  He is a good “explainer,” and his books are fun to read.

Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25

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