Good Math, Bad Math

As promised, another review of a childrens math book. Tonight, my daughter and I read “Rabbits, Rabbits, Everywhere: a Fibonacci Tale” by Ann McCallum.

This time, I have absolutely no complaints. “Rabbits” is a beautifully told story, with delightful artwork, which makes the basic idea of the Fibonacci series understandable to a first grader. It’s a wonderful book, which I recommend absolutely without reservation. If you have a child around 1st grade age, buy this book.

The book tells the story of the town of Chee, where the Pied Piper settled after he got the rats out of Hamelin. The town of Chee is protected by a Wizard, and in exchange for his protection, the townspeople bring him food. Until one day, the Pied Piper gets greedy, and decided to convince the people not to give food to the wizard anymore – instead, he wants to keep it for himself.

The next day, 1 pair of rabbits show up in the villages fields – named Knot and Fib. The next day, they have a pair of babies. The day after that, they have another pair of babies – and the first pair of babies are adults. The next day there are 5 pairs of rabbits; the next 8; the next 13; and so on, until there are so many rabbits that they’re eating all of the towns vegetables.

The piper tries to pipe the rabbits away, but fails. While he’s doing that, one little girl
figures out the pattern of how many rabbits there are – by drawing it out in a triangle in the dirt. (At this point, my daughter figured out the pattern herself, looking at the picture!).

The girl goes to the Wizard to ask him to help the town before they starve, and shows him that she’s figured out the pattern. He replies that by understanding the pattern, she can solve the problem – recognizing patterns gives you a way to figure out to solve them. And he gives her a flute which she can use to lead the rabbits away from the town.

And the story gets told all around as “The Tale of Fib and Knot in Chee”.

This is the kind of book I was hoping for. It’s a well-told story, which is engaging as a story; but it also teaches an interesting math lesson in a way that doesn’t hide the fact that it’s doing math, but makes the math a fun part of the story. Watching my daughter figure out the Fibonacci series herself from the patterns in the pictures was amazing – and then the way that the story moves on to talk about how understanding patterns helps solve problems was great – and it wasn’t lost on my daughter: she immediately said that just like the girl in the story, when she figured out a pattern, she could use it to solve things.

This one is a solid 5 out of 5 – just wonderful!

Comments

  1. #1 Arno
    March 8, 2007

    Splendid! If I had any kids, I’d be running to the bookstore right now! To bad it is before opening hours just yet, and what the heck I’m at work ;-) This really sounds like a true must-have for all parents to help stimulate their kids in a little analytical thinking.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. #2 Jonathan Vos Post
    March 8, 2007

    “Rabbits, Rabbits, Everywhere: a Fibonacci Tale” by Ann McCallum, is probably a little more child-accessible than my 90% completed novel manuscript: “Fibonacci — Superspy!” which has all the Math (Fibonacci brought Arabic numerals to Europe, and could numerically solve cubic equations but we don’t know how), the Court of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (an experimental animal biologist in real life), the Wizard Michael Scot, astrologers, assassins, pirates (do you know after whom the Jolly Roger is named?) and a very weird but actual Crusade…. I might not have started had I known how much research it would take.

  3. #3 Peter
    March 8, 2007

    Solve This: Math activities for students and clubs by Jim Tanton

  4. #4 .mau.
    March 8, 2007

    Well, at least you English-speaking folks have a choice: if I had a son, I do not think I would be able to find anything at all in Italian :-(

  5. #5 Myrtle
    March 8, 2007

    Great. I have a first grader. Maybe I can just get this one through the library.

  6. #6 Justin Moretti
    March 12, 2007

    My cousin is a second-grader who’s already six months ahead of her class. I’m going to try to find this for her, also because it can hang around for her little sister (not long since turned two) when she gets old enough, and be lent to our other cousin, who’s five.

  7. #7 Julia
    March 30, 2007

    Hey, it would be helpful to a lot of other people if you’d write short reviews on amazon!

    (I put it on the wishlist I keep for my kids. I’ll probably include it in the next order I make….)

  8. #8 Claire B
    March 13, 2010

    I got this book myself a few months back, even if I’m not strictly a little girl. It’s my favourite compared to any in the Sir Cumference series, which is also delightful.