Zilahy Book: Math is Texas Hold’em, Kung Fu, and Fun

By Purnell T. Cropper | September 17, 2010

By Sarah R. Schwartz ’10

It all began in 2009 when a high school teacher and self-professed “science and technology aficionado” began to jot down his musings on early 21st century recreation mathematics—and topics such as text-speak, origami, Texas Hold’em and Kung Fu.

The resulting musings of Jeffrey A. Zilahy ’07M turned into a brief, 112-page book that explores 57 pop culture subjects, all related to the field of mathematics. Zilahy, who studied Mathematics Education at Arcadia University, published A Cultural Paradox: Fun in Mathematics through J 2 the Z Publishing. The book is designed to capture the attention of those convinced that math is boring.

In the introduction to his book, Zilahy writes, “I am of the belief that mathematics is the underlying ‘software’ that powers the ‘hardware’ that we live in, namely planet Earth and of course the greater cosmos. It seems to me that there is a close relationship between the level of sophistication that a civilization possesses and the degree of mathematics that a civilization grasps. I would say that math is powerful, intriguing, and intensely relevant to all of our lives.”

Zilahy is a math teacher at Franklin Towne Charter School in Philadelphia. He says that the research he did for a course at Arcadia sparked his interest in writing his book.

“For my History of Mathematics course, part of the requirement was to give a couple presentations,” he says. “That really helped me begin my research. I began to find a lot of interesting stories about math. Then when I was able to give the presentation, that kind of helped me to sharpen my voice and my telling of these stories.”

“As a teacher, I know that textbooks aren’t always the most inspiring thing for a student. Our culture doesn’t always enjoy or appreciate math. Looking around at the typical resources that a teacher has, there aren’t many options to inspire young learners. The book came from my determination to address that deficit and help students get excited about the subject.”

A Cultural Paradox: Fun in Mathematics is available for purchase in hard copy or file download.