The Housekeeper and the Professor

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I would easily have told you I hated Math in school. I wasn’t bad in Math but I did not enjoy it. I saw it as something I had to do. First to get to college and then to get my science degree. But I always knew that the kids who were math majors saw something I didn’t. That they “got” math in a way I didn’t.

If I’d had the Professor as a Math teacher I might have felt differently.

Among the many things that made the teacher an excellent teacher was that he wasn’t afraid to say “we don’t know.” For the Professor there was no shame in admitting you didn’t know the answer, it was a necessary step toward the truth. It was as important to teach us about the unknown or the unknowable as it was to teach us what had already been safely proven.
p. 63

That’s just a good teacher, math or otherwise. But this book is full of the beauty of mathematics. Even a recovering math hater could see that beauty through the Housekeeper’s eyes as she learns from the Professor. The Professor is a great teacher because he loves his subject. He has a child-like delight in numbers. But also in baseball. And in watching the Housekeeper cook.

This is a slim novel but every word is beautiful. The Professor has a short-term memory that only lasts 80 minutes after a car accident in 1975. (Yes, another memory loss book.) The Housekeeper (there are no names in this book) comes to work for him after nine previous housekeepers have given up. Over time, she, the Professor and her son Root (nicknamed by the Professor because of his flat head that looks like a square root sign) become a kind of family. Not a lot happens in this character-driven book but there is a lot to think about. Family. Math. Memory.

He preferred smart questions to smart  answers. p. 129

I think this may need to become the motto of our homeschool.

5 thoughts on “The Housekeeper and the Professor

  1. I also am reasonably good at math and have taken a lot of math in college, but never enjoyed it. As I’ve gotten older, I’m starting to get glimmers of math as something beautiful that underlies all physical reality. I think I should check this book out, thanks.

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