Published by Lothrop, Lee and Shepherd Books in 1985
Themes: Concept Book on large numbers
Opening/Synopsis: “If one million kids climbed onto one another’s shoulders, they would be taller than the tallest buildings, higher than the highest mountains, and farther up than airplanes can fly.” Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician holds an unforgettable math class. This book basically explains about how much a million would be visually, comparing it to kids standing on shoulders, or stars on a page or goldfish in a goldfish bowl. He then proceeds to use the same imagery to explain a billion and a trillion.
Why I Like this Book: The author is a mathematician, who wanted to help kids experience the awe of big numbers he himself had experienced as a kid. We hear big numbers mentioned often these days but what do they really mean. If you wanted to count to a million, Schwartz says it would take 23 days! It offers brilliant visuals, whimsically illustrated by Kellog, to make very concrete these abstract figures! The book contains three very detailed pages explaining the exact calculations Schwartz used. these are not random pictures he presents!
Activities/Resources: For older children engage in a discussion about big numbers. Start smaller – children could group items of 10 ten times over in order to represent 100. Then, you could start a year long project where you create stars to see how many you could make. Ideally, you would make several hundred over the course of the year to show how long it takes to really get to 1 million.
Have students guess how many pages there would need to be for a trillion stars. Give them 100 of something and have them guess what a million of that would look like.
Using the three visuals in the book, children could work backwards and work out how big a goldfish bowl would have to be for 1000, 100, 10 or 1 goldfish.
For younger children… even timing how long it takes to count to ten or a hundred…..
I realize this book is over 25 years old, but I truly believe it has lasting appeal and I wanted to find something today to kick of a list of more mathematical and scientific picture books for our readers.
For more books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.