Hello Numbers! What Can You Do?

We review the sixth of this year’s nominees for the Book of the Year


Edmund Harriss is a mathematician, artist, and assistant professor at the University of Arkasas. Houston Hughes has produced hundreds of live shows in collaboration with musicians, chefs, scientists, mathematicians, and others. Brian Rea is an artist and painter from Los Angeles. Hello Numbers? What Cah You Do? (Amazon UK, Waterstones, Workman) is a children’s book about numbers.


Hello Numbers! takes the reader through the numbers from zero to five (inclusive) and encourages the reader to count, arrange a number of points into shapes, and look for ways to add to make numbers. The rhyming sentences on each page are accompanied by charming and colourful drawings that show some of the things that can be done with each number.


As well as encouraging the reader to count, this book suggesting thinking about some other properties of numbers: the three characters that make up the number 3 can be arranged into a triangle; four character can made a square, or other four sided shapes, or a pyramid; five characters can make a star. A real strength of this book is that it shows irregular shapes that can be made as well as equilateral triangles and squares. Perhaps my favourite page is the one with a triangle so long and thing that it stretches across the whole double page spread.


This book is probably suitable for a younger audience than many of the other books on this year’s shortlist, as it encourages the reader to engage with more basic mathematical ideas than the others. This is no way a bad thing, as younger readers need reasons to love maths as well as older reasons.


I’d recommend this book to anyone with younger primary aged children or relatives looking for a fun book to encourage some number-related exploration and play with a child. I’m looking forward to seeing what my niece thinks of it on her birthday later this year…

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