Beauty in Numbers

D’Agnese, Joseph. Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci. Illus. by John O’Brien. Holt, 2010.

Once upon a time in medieval Italy, there lived a boy named Leonardo Fibonacci who loved numbers. He spent so much time thinking about numbers, people called him a blockhead.

As an adult, Fibonacci traveled far and wide and noticed how some people wrote numbers in other, sometimes better ways — the Hindu-Arabic numerals, for instance.  He marveled as he discovered that many living things exhibited a numerical pattern. O’Brien’s atmospheric, detailed pen-and-ink and watercolor paintings evoke the wonder of the man who became known as the greatest Western mathematician of the Middle Ages. D’Agnese’s accessible and engaging biography of this intriguing man provides educators with a fun way to teach a number of mathematical concepts. Flowers with eight petals, lemons with eight sections, clovers with three leaves: these are all Fibonacci numbers. Then there are Finbonacci spirals to find: in a ram’s horn, an ocean wave, an unfurling fern. Teachers can employ a range of activities, from nature walks to photography to poetry exercises to open children’s eyes to the patterns around us. Fibonacci’s in the air!

For more on D’Agnese, check out this interesting interview. Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci is also available as a CD/book or as a DVD (16:20 min.), with an online teacher’s guide from Spoken Arts.

Educators, check out Nature’s Numbers , lesson plans from the Franklin Institute, and “Developing Young Scientists” from the National Gardening Association’s Curriculum Connections.

Pair Blockhead with Sarah C. Campbell’s gorgeous Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature, 2011 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12.

Related Articles

Can Publishers Make E-Books Self-Destruct? Librarians Fight BackHow’s this for working the numbers?
HarperCollins is pushing a policy that limits libraries to only 26 check-outs for electronic books. After that, they disappear! If you think this is a bad deal for readers, click on the link and sign the petition. Then share it with others.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Joseph D'Agnese
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:57:54

    Thanks for the kind words about my book. — Joe


  2. Sharon Henning
    May 02, 2011 @ 23:00:07

    This sounds like a fascinating book. I’m going to have to get it. I’m currently reading a biography on Galileo that I’ll be reviewing when I finish it. I love the Medieval/Renaissance time period. Thanks for the review!


  3. Janice Floyd Durante
    May 02, 2011 @ 20:07:08

    Jacqui, I don’t understand why bookstores don’t carry more of the fabulous nonfiction books written for children. As a school librarian, I noticed science-related books were among the most popular.


  4. Jacqui Murray
    May 02, 2011 @ 19:48:55

    What great books. I’d never heard of them.


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