Count on Me
Count on Me
The thrust of this picture book is to introduce the notion that mathematics can be appreciated by observing how it is evidenced in everyday life. A little red-headed girl begins by telling readers of the passions of her other family members: father is a painter, mother a biologist and sousaphone-playing brother loves music. Then she embarks on a catalogue of instances of why her passion is math.
Math is all around us. It’s often hidden and
I love finding it.
There are geometric shapes on the playground.
And when we go to the lake, I skip stones to see
the concentric circles form in the water.
We live in a world of shapes and I like to play with them.
Later, in a scene which shows the family in an art gallery, with parents and brother admiring a Mondrian-like work of art, the narrator’s thought balloon shows her envisioning a flurry of geometric formulae. She says:
I know that my passion can be hard to understand.
But there are infinite ways to see the world…
And math is one of them.
Several pages at the back of the book explain in more detail the concepts dealt with in the main text, such as fractals, solid shapes and set theory.
Lively watercolour illustrations show numerous children and adults walking, frolicking, eating and exploring against a clearly European backdrop of parks and buildings. (Tanco, author and illustrator of numerous other books for children is Spanish-born and now lives in Milan, Italy.)
The focus on mathematics as an outlet for creativity is a bit unusual after the many books about how the arts can inspire a child, but it is difficult to explain how such a charming-looking book failed to engage me. I wanted more than the flat and simplistic text offered to go with the exuberant pictures. Count On Me is not a translation into English from another language, but it reads like one. Also, the title is somewhat misleading as counting is one aspect of mathematics not dealt with here.
Count on Me could be used as an adjunct in a primary classroom math unit or to satisfy an individual young reader who does have a passion for mathematics. Only for a limited user pool.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, British Columbia.