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93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 1999
I checked this book out of the library to read to my 8 year old daughter (she wanted me to read "Flatland" to her and I thought the dated language might get in the way). She loved it and now I plan to purchase two copies; one for her and one for my 12 year old son. The book jacket decribed the book as a cross between Flatland and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I would have described it as a cross between Flatland an The Phantom Tollbooth, but, no matter. It definitely provides food for thought for any reasonably inquisitive child; and may provide more for a child already interested in mathematics.
I had read several biographies of famous scientific or mathematical type people who credited Bell's "The Men of Science" as sparking their initial interest in math. I was searching for something more appropriate for a young girl. While this wasn't ideal in that regard (e.g. there's a mention of the fact that their aren't many women in "Number Heaven" with a half-hearted apology that this was changing), I do believe that this can at least serve as kindling for a later fire of interest.
Each chapter takes place in a dream between the books protagonist (Robert) and his "Number Devil"; a sort of less than sainthood guru status. Each dream takes on a different example of mathematical interest, primarily from Number Theory. Should be of interest to children from six to sixteen. The protagonist is twelve.
Highly recommended.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2004
Crossing the story Alice in Wonderland with a small, red, fiery-tempered devil with a passion for numbers gives you The Number Devil, a perfect tale with funny and curious characters.
Robert hates math, and he gets irritated because his math teacher doesn't allow calculators in class. In addition to that, he has peculiar dreams all the time. Then, one night, completely out of the blue, he dreams about a Number Devil, who takes him away to a fantastic world of numbers. Robert learns all about different mathematical ideas and concepts in a fun way. Over the course of 12 different nights, Robert learns about simple math ideas like factorials, fractions, the importance of zero, and the idea of infinity. But Robert's adventures don't stop there; Robert also learns about more complex things like triangle numbers, Fibonacci numbers, imaginary numbers, and irrational numbers. The Number Devil makes up funny terms in order to explain these to Robert. Square roots are called "rutabagas," prime numbers are "prima donnas," squaring becomes "number hopping," the Fibonacci sequence is called "the Bonacci numbers, " and factorials are named "vrooms."
Did you know that you can take any even number larger than two and find two prime numbers that add up to it? The Number Devil presents different mathematical ideas to Robert, using funny things like furry calculators and coconuts. Even Robert uses what he learns in his dreams in class. For example, the Number Devil uses coconuts to show Robert what triangular numbers are. He uses the coconuts to make triangles on the ground, and he comes up with the first ten triangular numbers: 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 28, 36, 45, and 55. Next, he comes up with a little rule for triangular numbers: Any number greater than 1 can be the sum of two or three triangle numbers. Try 83, for example. It is the sum of 10 + 28 + 45.
Not only does the Number Devil show Robert different math principles, but he takes him to Number Paradise, and there Robert meets different mathematicians like Carl Friedrich Gauss (of course, the Number Devil makes up names for the mathematicians as well, so Gauss is called Professor Horrors), Georg Cantor (Professor Singer), and Leonhard Euler (Owl). Robert also meets Felix Klein (Dr. Happy Little), and he sees the famous `Klein Bottle' (the Little Bottle). The Number Devil shows how one can't tell the inside of this object from the outside!
I thought this book was very enjoyable and funny. The illustrations were amusing and the characters were hilarious. I especially liked the Number Devil himself. I would give the book an eight out of ten only because some of the concepts described were very elementary, and it became boring for me at times. Overall, I didn't learn a lot, but the little tidbits of information and the more complex ideas were interesting. I would recommend this book for all ages as a good read aloud or for a bedtime reading book. Happy reading!
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2000
I am nine years old. It was a good book. I like that it was about adventure and math and a story and you could do activities from the book. I liked the triangle numbers, the prima-donna numbers, Bonacci. I especially liked going to number hell and meeting all the number devils, and seeing the imaginative guy and the funny drinking glasses. I liked that Pascal's triangle had so many interesting things you could do with it.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 1999
The Number Devil is one of the best books I have ever read. I am only 11 years old and even though it explored mathematical theories, I thought it was an amazing novel which was unputdownable. Robert is the main character in the story, and each night he dreams of the number devil. The number devil teaches Robert different mathematical aspects in a way which is simple to understand. Most of my maths class at school has read it and they also agree that it's a great book. I highly reccomend this for anyone from 10 plus.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 1999
I read this book for the first time not quite a year ago, and I loved it! Now I'm 13, and just recently lent the book to my gr. 8 math teacher-who thought it was amazing. This is a cute approach to challenging math topics. Now I'm doing a book report on The Number Devil and just want to say that this book is not only a wonderful novel with well developped characters, but a wonderful teaching tool and learning book. A fantastic mix between a text book and a novel with some humour thrown in. I love it!
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 1998
In a children's book reminiscent of The Phantom Tollbooth, the reader is taken along on a magical journey of mathematical discovery. Robert is a twelve-year-old boy who detests math, mainly because his math teacher, Mr. Bockel, is incredibly boring. To the rescue comes the Number Devil, a creature who visits Robert in a series of twelve dreams. During each dream the Number Devil explains different mathematical mysteries and reveals the beauty and simplicity of numbers. In the end, both Robert and the reader gain a new appreciation for math.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 1999
For one who has been volunteer tutoring math to local prisoners seeking to reach GED-level achievment, I think this book has some wonderfully stimulating concepts presented in a refreshing way. I question somewhat the 9-12 year reading level--I might extend that from 12 to "any age." I found the author's truncating of Fibonacci's name to "Bonacci" numbers a little offputting--any kid who can handle these ideas can also deal with the full name of that fascinating sequence. Likewise his replaceing the word "factorial" with "vroom" seems unnecessary, but most likely he was looking for more ways to make things seem "cool." But overall, it's a most engaging and, I should think, stimulating book for the kid of whatever age who can be turned on by the magic of numbers and the concepts behind them.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2005
I read this book knowing that is was targeted at a younger age than I. However, I was not disappointed. The book contains colorful and often helpful illustrations, and the story isn't half bad, if not a bit monotonous. It also has fun and interesting mathematical tricks and facts, as well as a little of the basics. I found the idea of a Number Hell and Heaven very funny and interesting. There were only two problems that I had with this book:

1. The mathematics presented in each chapter varies greatly. In the first few chapters, simple math, or "the basics" are reviewed. Then, after a few chapters, the book suddenly jumps to more complicated math, like factorials, basic geometry, infinity theory, and more. It looks like half the book is for 8-12 year-olds, and half of it is for 13-14 year-olds. The jump is very sudden, and depletes the book of it's easy-to-understand flow that is good for a child.

2. Understandably, the author uses made-up names for the topics he is presenting in the book. This is not such a bad idea, to have names that a child will find funny and will be able to remember. However, the author provides almost no way to check what the made-up names are in real life. Not only are there made up names for the math, but also for famous mathematics pioneers that are mentioned. These two things are sometimes confusing and frustrating.

Despite these flaws, the book is very well written and follows in the spirit of Flatland and The Phantom Tollbooth: a magical story about numbers.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 31, 2000
Is there a devil on your back thats been hounding you to learn those numbers? Well, there is an easier way to learn and understand numbers. With Haans Enzensberger's childrens book The number Devil, its not only fun, but makes it all look easy. Sometimes it is, other times it can be overwhelming. The number devil is a story that takes place in dreamland where a child, who hates math and numbers finds out how numbers are essential to the world we live in. He also finds out that numbers are easy to understand, so long as we take the time to understaand them. Each chapter attempts to study a number. Starting with 0 and 1, then moving to others from 2 on up. Every number is a pattern and creates more patterns. Its a matter of seeing the patter that clears up the muddle of large numbers. I found this book easy to read and fun and educational. Highly reccomended!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2006
The Number Devil is a fascinating read. It is about a 12 year old boy, Robert, who hates Mathematics. One night, a Number Devil appears in Robert's dream to solve his Math problems. Robert is surprised as he does not have his usual dreams. The Number Devil teaches Robert a lot of Mathematics and a close friendship develops between them.

I liked this book because you feel as if you were Robert himself. Reading the book I remembered the times when I too was struggling to cope with Mathematics. The book contains a bit of humor, fiction and sadness too. The fact that was the coolest was the triangle which the Number Devil and Robert built with numbers and the different triangles with numbers divisible by 2 and 5 in them.

The story is very well interwoven with Mathematics. So it's neither a storybook nor is it a Math textbook. It is very well written. While reading I did not feel at all like keeping the book down. It is very engrossing. It surely is a must-read.
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