Saturday, October 24, 2009

BOOK: The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, 262 pages
A Mathematical Adventure
translated by Michael Henry Heim

One of my students in grade eleven physics brought me this book because he thought I would like it because it was all about math. How sweet was that? He was so very right about the book. As a math lover, I appreciated how well this cute little book is put together and how accessible math is made in the book, but this book is also for people who don't appreciate math, yet. (Apparently, there are people out there who don't like math. Go figure - I think it's amazing.)

This is the story of Robert, a little boy who has nightmares, and who hates math in school. Suddenly, the number devil appears in his dreams and spends twelve nights showing Robert some cool patterns and numbers. Prime numbers, infinite numbers, Fibonacci series, Pascal's triangle, combinations. All are developed and explained with simplicity and logic and some humor. And if you have never seen Pascal's triangle and all the flabbergasting patterns it holds, then you didn't have a very good math teacher.

The story is quick, and easy to read, with illustrated pictures included, and math demonstrated. Some terms are worded differently, like taking the square root is called rutabaga, because it is a root vegetable, and prime numbers are called prima donna numbers. The index at the back cross lists both terms. I think it's the kind of book I'd like to have around here for my kids to hopefully pick up and enjoy. It's never too early to introduce the wonder of math.

This book is recommended on the back cover for children and other thinking beings.


  1. This book is recommended often to home educating parents, but I have not yet read the whole book. I liked what I read -- it was a lot of fun! Do you teach high school physics?

  2. stephanie - it was a very fun book. I do teach high school physics, for the past 16 years.

  3. I think it's so sweet that a student bought that book for you! It sounds like fun.

  4. I guess I didn't have a very good math teacher, then. I also never took physics - not even in college! The only physics lessons I learned were in astronomy. How weird is that?

  5. I'm going to have to look into this one!

  6. I've heard of this before, though a long time ago... thanks for reminding me that I need to get it, it sounds like something I'd really like!

  7. joAnn - he's a very sweet student, most of them are actually.

    bookfool - Astronomy is a section of physics I know very little about. Not a lot of people take physics, so you aren't that unusual.
    pascal's triangle has tons of patterns and relationships in it. It's more awesome when you are using it for information.

    michelle - you'd like it, and your boys might too.

    joanna - your welcome!


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