Children’s Math Book Review – The Number Devil by Hans M Enzensberger

The Number Devil by Hans M. Enzensberger is an attractive and imaginative book for children that teaches math wonderfully and redefines the concept of “showing your work.” In fact, throughout the bulk of the book, children are led by Robert and his devilish guide–into some of the most beautiful sites of mathematical discovery.

Robert has a lot of common sense and gradually over the course of the book he becomes more and more “ready” for his encounters with his crazy mentor: The Number Devil. The design of the book is appealing to the eye, contains excellent illustrations, and the clear and colorful lines and fonts attract students all the more to a greater attraction to the positive world of mathematics.

“How Children Can See Math in Different Perspectives,” would be an excellent alternate title for the book. For example, looking at math today as a teacher, a big majority of students see math as impossible to accomplish.

After reading The Number Devil, I can conclude that the book gives the average math student options in how to look at a problem in many ways. rather than in one way. The author makes it quite clear that Robert hates math: “And besides, I hate everything that has to do with numbers” (Enzensberger 11).

Many people can relate to Robert and how he learns to enjoy math. Thus, by reading this book, a student can gain hope that math is not just learning one concept, but also by learning multiple ways to solve a mathematical problem.

The first mathematical concept recognized in the book was prima donnas. This idea reminds students of the concept of prime numbers. The recollection of prime numbers from students can be difficult. The way that The Number Devil explains this concept is by painting a picture that includes the numbers from two to fifty. The process of elimination includes deleting the odd numbers by way of seeing the prime numbers.

By giving a student a picture of what needs to be done, you have successfully led him through steps that need to take place, rather than rote memorization or doing it in their “head.”

A second mathematical concept explained in The Number Devil is Bonacci Numbers. These are not just your everyday ordinary numbers. They are special numbers that are everlasting. These numbers are irrational numbers too, in that they divide certain numbers by their neighbor, and the result is a pile of numbers that do not stop. For example: one, two, three, five, eight, thirteen, twenty one, and thirty four are a prime example of how the added number added to the second number equals the third number.

A third mathematical concept in The Number Devil is the idea to simplify a number by multiplying it by itself. For example, ten times ten equals a hundred. In this situation The Number Devil shows that this can be so with the number twenty. Twenty to the fifth power is twenty thousand. This explanation can be illustrated by hopping the zero eight times to the left.

A fourth mathematical concept illustrated in The Number Devil explains irrational numbers. He says that these “unreasonable” numbers refuse to play by the “rules.” By way of encouragement he recalls the “hopping” numbers-two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty two, etc.–and he explains the problem of hopping “backwards” which he calls “taking the rutabaga” square root.

This leads to the square root of two, which the number devil says is unreasonable. He then gives a rare and gorgeous geometric proof about why the diagonal of the unit square has length of square root of two. On the diagonal the number devil draws another square, which he illustrates four triangles, two of which can form the unit square. Then the larger square has twice the area of the unit square, which makes the problem make sense to the student!

The Number Devil shows many number concepts that will be more appealing to young minds. For example, math students learn math easier by using objects they can manipulate–like sticks, building blocks, cubes, or play money. Using these visual objects can enhance student learning by helping them learn basic number operations like the ordinary numbers two, three, and four, and hopping numbers 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, and 5-2.

I would teach a class of elementary students their hopping numbers much like the number devil did, by using visual and tactile objects. A lesson on hopping numbers would be as follows. I would use three numbers per day. I would line up the object discussed, such as building blocks. I would say one times one square equals one–modeling this for them visually. Then I would hold up two blocks and show them two times two equals four with four blocks.

Whatever number I was covering would correlate with the number of blocks or sticks utilized. For the students that didn’t understand, I would pair up with someone who does understand, and instead of making them work with groups of three or four, I would allow them to start with groups of two or thereabouts. This will enable the student to learn and not feel left out or emotionally distressed by not understanding.

Another concept that is of utmost importance to our students from The Number Devil is multiplication. Introducing multiplication to students is of vital importance. Multiplication is something that can be totally misunderstood if it is not explained properly the first time. I would use bold as well as multi-colored numbers for the answers.

A variety of colors in multiplication are vital because the students can visually see that four times four (red) equals (green) sixteen (purple). A variety of colors can be utilized to explain the products and factors involved. In this case the factors of four times four equal the product of sixteen.

The use of colors will enhance the definitions for students by enabling them to remember them more accurately. I would also allow them to use colors on their papers if it helps in their memorization of facts, terms, and problem solving. I have a colleague at another school district that used to teach third grade and is now a vice principal. He taught for fifteen years and has had great success using a variety of colors in multiplication.

In conclusion, The Number Devil, by H. M. Enzensberger, is a book that I would have my students read. I found it appropriate for all levels of math students. Math should never be taught in just one way, but with a variety of methods. This book amplifies and explains how to problem solve in an exciting way and gives examples for students that they can identify with in their everyday world.

I would recommend the book for all teachers and especially teacher mentors because I believe that math is a subject that requires thinking beyond the problem and this book makes math fun, exciting, and a collaborative adventure for all students.

Illustrations Have Great Importance in Children’s Books

The essence of illustration is highly found in children’s books. Children always welcome the art of imagination to written texts. They are always attracted t the world of colors and visual fascinations that comes in the form of cartoon and comic illustrations.

Illustrations do not have its existence alone but they are created to complement any piece of writing to provide a better understanding and clear idea of what is delivered through the contents, whether they come in the form of bedtime stories or funny children’s movies. The illustration is actually the literature itself as the drawings created are directly focused on the idea of the literature provided. Whether they come in the form of funny cartoon characters or depict a historical event, children are taken to a world of imagination where they feel like their favorite characters are given new faces and emotions. Children have a better perception of the story when they go through the illustrations and will get to know the emotions and moods of the characters by the very glance itself. Thus, it saves the time for reading and the effort for understanding things better. They can develop their sense of imagination and observation quickly which aid the overall mental development of the children.

Since small children always require another person, especially their mother to read the stories for them, the cartoon illustrations can be easily understood by them without getting the help of any other. This will give them a power of self-confidence and self-dependability. They will love to acquire knowledge about the cultural and historical heritage easily through cartoon illustrations. Cartoon illustrations are also the best place for them to enjoy humorous situations in their life. It will help in developing the reading habit of children without any pressure. Since a child is always sensitive to colorful pictures, they can understand thing even before they start speaking. They can identify persons easily and can enhance the ability to turn pages. They can also get to know different colors and the color of the objects. Thus, book illustration offers a wonderful way for pre-school children to develop their communicative and cognitive functions. Accurate and perfectly illustrated images can thus have good effect on the development stage of a child.

Jamie and the Angel Book Review – An Enlightening Children’s Book

Many times children see, hear, or know things that adults question, and write off as a fluke, or their imagination, or silly because they don’t see, hear, or know the same things. But the real facts are quite different, and not acknowledging the event or experience as real, even if only to the child, is not only doing them a disservice, it is cruel. Children have real feelings, and real experiences, just like we all do. The only difference is they usually don’t have the life experiences, knowledge, or emotional maturity to handle things that are out of the norm. So they look to others to help them. When they don’t get the help needed, they turn to other sorts of explanations and comforts to assure them that they are still okay. They aren’t from outer space; they aren’t a freak.

Growing up is hard. Many adults think children should just know things, saying that it’s just common sense. They should know better. They shouldn’t be ridiculous. But in reality, that is part of the growing up process. We learn what we live, and live what we learn. Parents have to teach their children how to behave, what emotions are what, how to learn well and on the list goes. If they don’t get the feedback they need, they are afraid, tend to be more withdrawn, and feel all alone in the world.

This book explores just that; the feelings of being alone, afraid, unsure, feeling different, and sad. In this case, the child has a gift she doesn’t understand, and has no one to help her with it. She looks for comfort from the obvious sources, but since they don’t understand it either, they actually make things worse.

For this child she has a faith that she leans on in what she thinks is the last hope. The light in the dark tunnel gives her the understanding she needs, and the comfort she yearns for.

The author not only shows how this child felt and how she was able to resolve it despite the lack of family and friends support, she also gives help to the parents that may have a gifted child. The guidelines at the end of the book give any parent helpful information to guide their child through the rough patches so they don’t have to feel insecure, sad, different, or alone.

It’s a wonderful book. Children and parents with special gifts they don’t understand, and even those without special gifts should read this.