The Number Devil
A mathematical adventure
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Recommended reading age: 10-13 years
Lexile measure: 580
Why we recommended
The Number Devil is a fantastic way to expose young readers to the exciting aspects of maths. With colorful diagrams and illustrations accompanying the fast-paced dialogue and the number devil’s explanations, the novel rejects the idea of maths as a rote, calculation-based subject. Instead, Enzensberger approaches it from a fresh and playful perspective. He focuses on fascinating concepts such as irrational numbers, the importance of zero, Pascal’s triangle, the Fibonacci series and even combinatorics — a valuable preparation for young readers who will soon be taught these concepts in the classroom.
The writer successfully breaks down complex mathematical ideas into visual, engaging, story-based adventures: for example, explaining the concept of different infinities by marching long lines of imaginary people into Robert’s bedroom. Children can even take part in Robert’s journey and follow along his calculations — the book includes several activities for readers as well. As Enzensberger traces the young boy’s journey from hating the subject to relishing his nightly mathematical expeditions, young readers’ perception of maths will also be transformed as they fall in love with the book’s characters, and at the same time, with the wonder of maths.
Post-reading Questions & activities
(adapted from NZ maths):