The Children's Book Compass

A Math Whiz

Posted on: May 15, 2010

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese.  Illustrated by John O’Brien.  (2010).  Holt.  40 pages.  Grades 4 and up.  Biography.

Spark children’s interest in math with this biography of Fibonacci who was passionate about numbers.  As a boy he could solve math problems in two seconds!  When he was in school in 1178 in Italy, students did their math problems on abacuses and wrote their answers in Roman numerals.   Because he daydreamed about numbers he was ridiculed and called a Blockhead.

This fascinating biography shows that Fibonacci thought about numbers in “a different way.”  He worked hard to introduce Hindu-Arabic numerals to the world.  He also discovered a number pattern, now call the Fibonacci Sequence.  “That number pattern is a “blueprint that describes how living things such as flowers grow in an orderly, harmonious way.”  (p. 39).

The author tells Fibonacci’s story with zest and shows how the mathematician pursued and researched numbers as he traveled to different countries as a merchant.  O’Brien’s illustrations compliment and expand the text.  More details about what is known about Fibonacci are given at the end of the book along with puzzles to solve in a review of the illustrations.  Blockhead should ignite students’ interest in learning more about Fibonacci’s Sequence.

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