The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

I’ve seen this book recommended as a good math read aloud by Thomas Jefferson Education homeschoolers. I was intrigued by the thought of a math read aloud and got the book.

Subtitle: A Mathematical Adventure

Published: 1997 in Germany, 1998 in English translation

Genre: 253 pages of story, 262 pages total

Setting: the dreams of a young boy

Summary: Robert always had the worst dreams. Then one night, he dreams of a number devil who explains mathematical concepts using simple images and settings. Robert gets twelve different dreams and twelve different concepts, which don’t always follow traditional mathematical terminology, but are explained in everyday language. They include infinity, hopping numbers (squaring and multiplying by 10s), prima donnas (prime numbers), rutabegas (roots) and unreasonable (irrational) numbers, triangle numbers, Bonacci (Fibonacci) numbers, Pascal’s triangle, vrooms (factorials), the golden ratio, and the traveling salesman problem. Robert gets more and more interested in math and becomes an apprentice in number heaven.

Final thoughts: The kids and I really enjoyed this book. The kids had to sit close to me while I read so they could see the illustrations and mathematical diagrams. The diagrams were definitely key to some of the relationships, like triangle numbers, that are hard to explain in words but easier to see. There were only 12 chapters, but they read very quickly since they were full of numbers and illustrations. This is definitely targeted at middle school-age kids, but you don’t need to know much complicated math. If you can do multiplication and division, you’ll be able to follow along and enjoy the book since the number devil takes the concepts back to the simplest levels and explains them in real world examples like the number of rabbit pairs, or the different order kids can sit in class. It certainly made math fun and memorable. The kids keep bringing up the concepts in the book in conversation. It would have made a great Fun Math Friday read, except for the fact that my kids wouldn’t have let a week go by between chapters!

Title comes from: The character Robert always dreamed of was called a number devil.

Reading challenges fulfilled: #99 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge, and if I’d been paying attention, I could have used this as my E author and not had to read a random book off my Kindle instead.

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or subtitle to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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