December 6 – It’s Computer Science Education Week

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About the Holiday

Computer Science Education Week was launched in 2009 to raise awareness of the importance of computer coding in all careers and to invite people to learn how to code. Students from kindergarten to grade 12 are especially encouraged to take an interest in computer science and learn coding skills and also to take part in Hour of Code programs at school and elsewhere. The holiday is celebrated in December to honor computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who was born December 9, 1906 and went on to become a United States Navy rear admiral. Her work with machine-independent programming languages led to the development of COBOL, and she was instrumental in many other early computer-related advancements. To celebrate this week, check out Hour of Code and try coding for yourself!

Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing

Written by Dean Robbins | Illustrated by Lucy Knisley

 

“Margaret Hamilton loved to solve problems.” When she looked around, she saw many things that made her wonder “why?” Instead of going with the status quo, though, she came up with her own answers. Some things she questioned were why girls didn’t play baseball and why there were so few women doctors, scientists, judges and other professionals. So Margaret joined the baseball team and studied “hard in every subject at school—reading, music, art, and especially mathematics.”

From her father who was a poet and philosopher, Margaret learned about the universe. She wanted to know “how the planets moved, when the galaxies formed, and why the stars shone.” She loved to gaze “at the night sky in wonder.” She especially wanted to know more about the moon—how far away is it? How many miles is its orbit around the Earth? What is its diameter?

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

In school, Margaret found it fun to solve “harder and harder math problems” in algebra, geometry, and calculus. “And then she discovered computers!” She realized that she could use computers to solve so many of her questions about the universe. She began writing code and called herself a software engineer. After starting with simple mathematical problems, Margaret moved on to writing code that “could track airplanes through the clouds,” predict the weather, and perform functions they never had before.

In 1964 she joined the team at NASA that was working on sending astronauts to the moon. In writing her code, “Margaret thought of everything that could happen on a trip to the moon.” What if the spacecraft went off course or lost power? What if one of the astronauts made a mistake? Margaret wrote code that could solve all of these problems and more. Soon Margaret was leading a team of her own as “Director of Software Programming for NASA’s Project Apollo.”

She was instrumental in helping Apollo 8 orbit the moon, Apollo 9 hook up with another ship in space, and Apollo 10 come “within nine miles of the moon’s surface.” When NASA was ready to land people on the moon, Margaret wrote the code. She thought of every problem that could arise and included a solution. The printout of her code stood taller than she was.

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

On the day of Apollo 11’s launch, Margaret was in the control room while the world watched on television. It took four days for the spacecraft to reach the moon. Finally, the lunar module, Eagle, separated and was ready to make the landing. But just as it was about to descend, an astronaut flipped a switch that sent the Eagle’s computer into overload.

Had Margaret “prepared for this problem? Of course! Margaret’s code made the computer ignore the extra tasks and focus on the landing.” Slowly the Eagle approached the surface of the moon and touched down. “The Eagle has landed!” Neil Armstrong announced to an amazed audience. In NASA’s control room, everyone cheered. “Margaret was a hero!”

An Author’s Note with more information about and photographs of Margaret Hamilton follow the text.

With excellent examples from Margaret Hamilton’s childhood and adult life, Dean Robbins presents an accessible and compelling biography that reveals, from the beginning, Margaret’s curiosity, confidence, and convictions. Robbin’s focus on Margaret’s hard work, her excitement at discovering computers, and her leadership at NASA creates a narrative that is inspirational for all children. His emphasis on positive, affirming events in Margaret’s life is welcome, allowing girls and boys to realize that through dedication and self-assurance, they can achieve their goals just as Margaret—a superb role model—did.

Lucy Knisley’s bright, supportive illustrations, full of thought bubbles of Margaret’s ideas and wonderings, give readers the kinds of details that will spark their imaginations and help them understand and appreciate Margaret Hamilton’s many gifts and expertise. Images of mathematical problems give way to lines of code, helping children see the connection between what they’re learning at school and future careers. Kids interested in space exploration will be enthralled with the illustrations of the NASA control room and lunar launches.

For kids interested in computer science and other sciences, biographies, and history, Margaret and the Moon is an excellent addition to home as well as classroom and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399551857

Discover more about Dean Robbins and his books on his website.

To learn more about Lucy Knisley, her artwork, books, and comic, visit her website.

Computer Science Education Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kid-at-computer-coloring-page

I Love Computers! Coloring Page

 

Learning to code is awesome! Why not try an Hour of Code here and then color this printable I Love Computers! Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

July 8 – Savor the Comic, Unplug the Drama Day

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About the Holiday

With so much going on in our lives—at work and at home—it’s good to take a break for a laugh and a bit of relaxation. Savor the Comic, Unplug the Drama Day encourages people to get off the treadmill and treat themselves to their favorite fun activity!

7 Ate 9: The Untold Story

Written by Tara Lazar | Illustrated by Ross MacDonald

 

Private I was snoozing at his desk when 6 burst in saying he was being threatened by 7. Private I knew all about numbers—they were “always stuck in a problem.” He also knew that 7 was odd, so he asked 6 what was up. 6 said he’d heard 7 ate 9 and was now after him. The PI tried to explain about the usual order, but 6 wouldn’t hear it. Private I promised to “get to the root” of the story.

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Image copyright Ross MacDonald, courtesy of rossmacdonald.com

First on his list of witnesses was 8. She knew nothing, but fearing she was next in line, she took off her belt and fled the scene disguised as 0. PI wanted to think things through, so he went to Café Uno for a piece of Pi. The waitress, B, had heard the rumors that 7 ate 9 and confirmed that 9 hadn’t been seen in a while.

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Image copyright Ross MacDonald, courtesy of rossmacdonald.com

Next, the detective tracked down 11, 7’s best bud. 11 said 7 had to be innocent since he was on vacation. The whole case was not adding up. “If 7 was gone, where was 9?” On his way back to the office, Private I saw 6 crossing the street. Suddenly, he knew the score. He rushed back to the office where his client was “taking forty winks.” He grabbed 6 and turned him…upside down.” It was true—“6 was really 9!”

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Image copyright Ross MacDonald, courtesy of rossmacdonald.com

What was with all the deception? Why did 9 make up a story about 7? “‘Because 7 gets all the attention!” 9 wailed. “‘Lucky 7! Seven Wonders of the World! Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!’” 9 also had plenty to say about 10, who thought he was so perfect. But Private I reminded his client that he had one of the best advantages around—nine lives! 9 saw the detective’s point.

Just then 7 showed up and, with no hard feelings, accepted 9’s apology. Still Private I wondered how he could be so happy after being framed. 7 said he was in seventh heaven from sailing the seven seas, and he shared his vacation photos with everyone. At last the case was solved, and Private I could return to the letter cases he preferred. Except for that call from 2…

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Image copyright Ross MacDonald, courtesy of rossmacdonald.com

Tara Lazar’s hilarious mathematical mystery adds up to a perfect reading experience for kids who love clever word play, puns, and, of course, numbers! Lazar takes a classic joke and develops it into an ingenious story with twists and turns, red herrings, mistaken identities, and surprising revelations that will keep kids laughing from beginning to end.

Ross MacDonald’s personified numbers and visual jokes will entertain both young and adult readers. From the name on the detective agency’s door—Al F. Bet—to the “x”-shaped street sign at the corner of 2nd and 4th where 8 is found to the piece of Pi at Café Uno, MacDonald has filled the pages with riffs on language and mathematics that will delight kids. The bright colors and vintage-style illustrations recall the age of the classic hard-boiled detective, giving the book a distinctive personality.

7 Ate 9: The Untold Story is witty and wild and would make a wonderful addition to any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 9

Disney-Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1484717790

Discover more about Tara Lazar and her books on her website!

Check out Ross MacDonald, his books, movie props, letterpress, and comics on his website!

You can count on loving this 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story book trailer!

Savor the Comic, Unplug the Drama Day Activity

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Whale of a Laugh Coloring Page

 

Today is a perfect day to have some fun! Grab your pencils or markers and enjoy this printable Whale of a Laugh Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

May 2 – Baby Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-many-baby-animals-cover-clavisAbout the Holiday

Today we celebrate babies in all their cuteness, curiosity, and cuddliness.  If you have a baby or young child, spend the day doing something special with them! The years go by so quickly—enjoy showing your little ones the world around them! Of course, kids love babies of all kinds—and as today’s book shows Moms of all kinds love their kids!

How Many Baby Animals

By Guido van Genechten

 

It’s springtime and the farm animals are about to welcome lots of little ones to their families! How many? Little readers are about to find out! Mama Sheep is happily waiting for her babies to be born, and with a turn of the page, kids discover “Baa, baa, baa! / Three little lambs playing / in the meadow! / She gives them each / a kiss on the head, oh!” Mama Cat smiles at the thought of her new kittens to come. Just lift the flap and see—she has five: “Max, Mary, Mo, Molly, and Mittens!”

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Copyright Guido van Genechten, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

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Copyright Guido van Genechten, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

“Mama Chicken sits on her eggs / for more than a week. / Then the eggs begin to wobble / and start to speak!” Her new little peepers are keeping her busy—they’re such “brave little chicks!” What do they look like? Well, “they’re yellow and fluffy and there’s a freckle on number six.”

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Copyright Guido van Genechten, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

Wow! Mama Pig’s belly nearly touches the ground! How many babies will she welcome? Just flip the flap to count eight little piglets snuggling close. Mama Mouse is preparing for her little brood with tasty cheese and nuts, but how much should she store away? Enough for “eleven wee mice! They love sleeping together. Isn’t that nice?” And Mama Fish is the last to give birth. She swims through the water and hides in the plants with her large, happy family of…thirty three?!

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Copyright Guido van Genechten, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

Children who love animals and/or have pets will be enchanted with this unique counting book that also teaches a little bit about the nature of…nature. Sweet, smiling animal moms welcome their babies and cuddle up close, while Guido van Genechten’s funny rhymes lead readers to count increasing numbers of babies. The bold, vibrant pages allow kids to see each baby clearly, making counting easier. They also include one or two details about each animal’s farm habitat that can spur discussions of how and where each animal lives. The half-flap pages provide opportunities for interaction and fine-motor-skill practice, and the paper is heavy enough to stand up to much flipping back and forth.

Ages 2 and up

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373249

Baby Day Activity

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Baby’s Own Family Photo Book

 

Babies love seeing pictures of their family! Take the opportunity of Baby Day to put together a photo album for your baby or young child to look through. An album with pages of individual photographs makes it easier for babies to focus on one picture at a time, and close-up shots of family members smiling will make kids smile too. When you share the photo book with little ones, talk about the person in the picture and tell a family story. Doing this will help kids learn about their family and develop closer bonds!

Picture Book Review

January 23 – National Pie Day

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About the Holiday

National Pie day is perfect for…well…pie! Whether you love fruity pies or meat pies, pies with lattice tops or crumble crusts this day is for you! There’s only one true way to celebrate—make or buy your favorite kind of pie and enjoy! 

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems

Written by J. Patrick Lewis | Illustrated by Michael Slack

 

There’s something about poetry with its iambic pentameters, feet, meter, sonnets, couplets, and more countable qualities that just seems to lend itself to math. J. Patrick Lewis must have thought so too because he penned a clever volume of poems inspired by well-known verses. First up is Edgar Allan Poe’s Apple Pie, which is inspired by “The Raven” and begins: “Once upon a midnight rotten, / Cold, and rainy, I’d forgotten / All about the apple pie / Still cooling from the hour before.” But now, even though there is a “knocking, knocking…” at the door, the narrator takes up a knife and slices the night with a cutting question, only to hear the stranger’s mysterious clue “‘Never four!’”

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Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

All the narrator of Emily Dickenson’s Telephone Book, inspired by “My Life Closed Twice Before its Close,” wants to do after napping is to find a certain phone number in her directory, but where is it? She knew where it was before she went to bed—in fact its “two opposing pages / that added up to 113— / Were smudged around the edges—” but now she’s so confused…. Can you help?

Those who think that “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” has no link to underwear possibly are not aware of Robert Frost’s Boxer Shorts, in which the lilt and the rhythm of the original are perfectly matched in a priceless, pricey puzzle that ends “My tightie whities look so sad. / My tightie whities look so sad.” How can you resist?

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Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

You may know about William Carlos Williams’s red wheelbarrow and where it stood, but what if that handy implement was replaced by a… “fifteen-inch square pizza” that is missing “nineteen and a half pieces”?! Well, there may not be any rainwater glaze, but it sure does make for a delicious arithmetic conundrum in William Carlos Williams’s Pizza.

You’re eating up these poems, aren’t you? Well, next come three poems in which termites, sharks, and a “hippo-po-tah-tum” do a bit of nibbling of their own. The fun multiplies in Ogden Nash’s Buggy Rugs, where 313 little wood chompers hide; in John Ciardi’s Shark Dentist, in which you’ll want to brace yourself for the ending; and in Shel Silverstein’s Hippo-po-tah-tum, which is fractionally frightening.

These seven poems are added to seven more, plus two pages full of “prose about the poets,” to equal one smart, tantalizing poetic brainteaser of a book!

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Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

Patrick Lewis, who served as the US Children’s Poet Lauriat from 2011 to 2013, has honored 16 of the world’s most beloved poets the way kids love best—with humor. Adapting the original poem’s rhythm, rhyme scheme, and length with a dash of the ridiculous and a dose of numerical heft, Lewis has created poems that will have kids giggling while they ponder the answers to the lyrical math problems the verses pose. While arithmetic aficionados will gobble these poems up, there’s plenty for language arts lovers to sink their teeth into too. Each witty poem just begs to be compared to the original, which would make for a fun afternoon at home or lesson in the classroom. Admit it—aren’t you just the tiniest bit curious what Edward Lear’s “There was an Old Man with a Beard” has to do with an 80-foot hotdog?

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Image copyright Michael Slack Lewis, courtesty slackart.com

Michael Slack gets things off and running on the first spread, where a sharp-taloned blackbird stands over a knife that’s plunged into the center of a pie. While readers of Walt Whitman’s Web-Covered Shoe may wonder exactly how long the boot has been untouched, they’ll be more distracted by the number of eyes on two very fierce-looking spiders. And there may be nothing more diverting than the potbellied cowboy wearing only his tightie whities as he waits for his snowflake, flame, spaceship, and other uniquely decorated boxers to dry. Slack illustrates each poem with distinctive, vibrant images that ramp up the humor and give every page an individual look.

Answers to the math problems proposed are included with every poem, and brief biographies accompanied by tiny portraits, reveal information about the poets represented and their work.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie is a fantastic way to get kids interested in math and poetry. The brain ticklers, as well as the wonderful wordplay and illustrations, make this a book that should be on classroom shelves and would be welcome in home libraries too.

Ages 6 – 9

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2015 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0544456129

To learn more about J. Patrick Lewis, his books, and resources for kids and teachers, visit his website!

View a gallery of books, illustration, and other art by Michael Slack on his website!

National Pie Day Activity

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Mixed Up Cherry Pies Puzzle

 

Each winner of a poetry contest were supposed to get two identical pies, but they got mixed up! Can you find the matching pies in this printable Mixed Up Cherry Pies Puzzle and save the day?

Picture Book Review

November 23 – Fibonacci Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is dedicated to the man—Leonardo of Pisa, today known as Fibonacci—who promoted awareness throughtout Europe of the number sequence that now bears his name. First appearing in Indian mathematics and linked to the golden triangle and the golden ratio, the number pattern states that each consecutive number in the series is the sum of the two preceding numbers: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…. This sequence is found again and again in nature in such arrangements as leaves on a flower stem, seeds in a sunflower, the tapering of a pinecone, the swirl of a seashell, and manys. These precise compositions allow each leaf to get enough sunlight, make room for the correct number of petals, or squeeze in as many seeds as possible. To celebrate, learn more about this sequence and then observe patterns in nature. A good place to start is with today’s book!

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci

Written by Joseph D’Agnese | Illustrated by John O’Brien

 

Leonardo Fibonacci introduces himself this way: “You can call be blockhead. Everyone else does.” He goes on to reveal that he acquired that nickname because he loved to think about numbers. Once when his teacher gave the class ten minutes to solve a math problem, he knew the answer in two seconds. At home he counted everything he saw. When he was bored his mind pondered the patterns he saw. For instance, on that school day while his classmates worked on the problem, Leonardo spent the time gazing out the window. H e noticed 12 birds sitting in a tree. How many eyes was that? How many legs? “And if each bird sang for two seconds, one bird after the other, how long would it take all of them to sing?” He was counting these answers in his head when his teacher yelled, “‘How dare you daydream in my class!’” He told Leonardo there would “‘be no thinking in this classroom—only working! You’re nothing but an absent-minded, lazy dreamer, you…you BLOCKHEAD!’”

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

Leonardo ran from the room into the city he loved—Pisa, one of the greatest cities in 1178 Italy. A new tower was being constructed—although the builders were having trouble with their math and the tower stood at an angle. He was so enthralled with the math he saw all around him that he nearly walked into danger. “‘What are you, a blockhead?’” a woman shouted. Leonardo’s father was angry and embarrassed by his son’s reputation in town. He wanted Leonardo to become a merchant, and took him to northern Africa to learn the business.

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

In Africa Leonardo learned a new number system. Instead of Roman numerals, the people used numbers “they had borrowed from the Hindu people of India.” In this system XVIII became the much easier 18. During the day Leonardo handled his father’s business accounts, but at night Alfredo, his father’s advisor and Leonardo’s champion, accompanied him as he learned the new number system. As Leonardo grew older, his father sent him on trips to other countries to conduct business. In each Leonardo learned new mathematics concepts. In Egypt he learned about fractions. In Turkey and Syria he discovered methods of measurement. In Greece he learned geometry, and in Sicily he used division and subtraction.

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

One day Leonardo “began to write a book about Hindu-Arabic numerals” and included riddles to demonstrate the ideas. One was about a pair of rabbits. Leonardo asked Alfredo to tell him how many baby rabbits would be born within one year if it took a baby one month to grow old enough to have babies of its own and one more month to have a pair of babies. Alfredo tried to solve it but couldn’t. As Leonardo explained the sequence of adult pairs and baby pairs of rabbits to Alfredo, he noticed a pattern. At the end of month two, there would be 1 grown-up pair of rabbits and 1 baby pair; at the end of month three there would be 2 grown-up pairs and 1 baby pair; at the end of month 4 there would be 3 grown-up pairs and 2 baby pairs…. Leonardo saw that by adding “any two consecutive numbers in the pattern,” you’d get the next correct number. This discovery made solving the problem even easier.

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

Leonardo’s work with math soon spread across Europe. Frederick II, the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire invited Leonardo to visit. There Frederick’s wise men challenged him with math problems that were no match for Leonardo’s quick brain. Frederick II didn’t call Leonardo a blockhead, instead he said he was “‘one smart cookie.’” When Leonardo went home, however, the people of Pisa grumbled and complained. They thought the old Roman numerals were good enough.

Leonardo set out to prove how valuable Hindu-Arabic numerals were. He began observing nature, and everywhere, from the petals of a flower to the arms of a starfish to the seeds in an apple, Leonardo discovered the same numbers—the sequence he had discovered in the rabbit riddle. He realized that these numbers could be used in different ways—to draw a spiral; the same type of spiral found within pinecones and the center of a sunflower.

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

Leonardo finishes his story by relating that even though he is now old, numbers still delight him, as does the secret Mother Nature cleverly uses to organize the world and even the universe. He invites readers to look again through his story and find the places where his Fibonacci sequence appears.

More biographical information about Leonardo of Pisa plus a discussion of where readers can find Fibonacci number patterns in nature and a scavenger hunt through the book follow the text.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci is an engaging, accessible biography that describes this mathematical scholar’s life and theory in a clear and entertaining way, whether their thing is math and science or English, history, and art. Joseph D’Agnese immediately entices kids into the story with the revelation of how Leonardo acquired the nickname that gives the book its title. Using anecdotes such as the birds in the trees and the rabbit riddle, he invites readers to think like Fibonacci, leading to a better understanding and enjoyment of his life story and the mathematical concept. The idea of using your talents and passions wherever you are—as Leonardo does in his work for his father—is a valuable lesson on its own.

John O’Brien’s wonderfully detailed illustrations take children back to early Italy and the Mediterranean with his depictions of Leonardo’s school and town, as well as the under-construction Tower of Pisa and the influential cultures of other countries he visited. Cleverly inserted into each page are examples of the Fibonacci sequence at work—in whorls of wood grain, the spirals of women’s hats, the web of a spider and horns on a passing goat, and so many more. The rabbit riddle is neatly portrayed for a visual representation of the math involved, and the way nature uses the pattern is also organically portrayed. Children will love searching for and counting the various ways Fibonacci’s seuqence is used throughout the illustrations.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci is a fantastic book to share with all children, especially as they begin to learn mathematical problem solving, the value of math, how it is used, and how it occurs naturally in the world. The book makes a marvelous teaching resource and addition to classroom libraries and also a great addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 9

Henry Holt and Company, 2010 | ISBN 978-0805063059

To discover more books by Joseph D’Agnese for children and adults visit his website!

Find a vast portfolio of cartoon and illustration work by John O’Brien for kids and adults on his website!

Watch the Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci book trailer!

Fibonacci Day Activity

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Spiral Coloring Page

 

Have fun coloring this printable Spiral Coloring Page that is inspired by Leonardo Fibonacci’s work.

Picture Book Review