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A Very Improbable Story

(Charlesbridge Math Adventures)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  129 ratings  ·  29 reviews
What are the odds?

Ethan wakes up one morning to find a very strange cat stuck on his head. The cat, Odds, refuses to budge until Ethan wins a game of probability. Without looking, Ethan must pick out a dime from his coin collection or two matching socks from his dresser, or do something else improbable. If he doesn't, Odds is there to stay, and Ethan has a 100% chance of m
Paperback, 32 pages
Published February 1st 2008 by Charlesbridge Publishing (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Well, the idea of a cat stuck on top of a boy's head is novel, but I would have liked a less fantastical reason for the boy to be compelled to play the cat's games. Nevertheless, this story was a great way to teach probability to kids--even I understood it! And then having the boy find a practical use for probability at the end was perfect--teach the concept and then present a practical application for it. Recommended for kids who like math and adults who want to understand it. ...more
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books, math
Oh my gosh, what a great picture book to introduce probability to older kids! It's cute and fun and gives wonderful mathematical information in a straight-forward, interesting way. It gets a little convoluted at the end, but if it's being used as a read aloud, stress and pausing can be used effectively, then a probability game similar to one described int the book and VOILA!! ...more
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Published: 2009
Fiction, Picture book

The book is about a boy named Ethan who wakes up with a cat on his head. This cat is named Odds and he is not your ordinary cat. He can talk and he likes to play probability games. Odds tells Ethan he will get off his head if he wins a probability game. Ethan makes several attempts without success. Finally, right before he must go to his soccer game, Ethan wins a probability game involving the five different shapes of Woofi
Jun 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What’s the likelihood that a crusty feline sticking stubbornly to a boy’s skull and expounding statistical concepts would be not only strangely engaging but would clearly communicate what probability is, what it’s not, how to pronounce it and how to use it to improve soccer scores? In this case, 100%

You can listen in on our chat about this book on our Just One More Book! Children's Book Podcast.

Kristin Crockett
Title: A very Improbable Story
Author: Edward Einhorn
Illustrator: Adam Gustavson
Genre: Concept Book
Theme(s): Mathematics, Probability
Opening line/sentence:
One morning Ethan woke up with a cat on his head.
Brief Book Summary:
Ethan wakes up on the morning of his last soccer game with a cat, named Odds, stuck on his head and tries everything to try to get Odds off. The only way Odds agrees to get off Ethan’s head so he can go to his game is if Ethan plays games of probability with Odds and wins. T
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a fun story that teaches the concept of probability in a practical and easy to understand way. The fact that there's a cat on the boy's head is very humorous and the challenge he is given motivates him to succeed so that he can go to his soccer game (without a cat on his head.) The illustrations are entertaining and very expressive. I also liked the additional information provided in the back of the book about the pioneers in probability (with illustrations of men with cats on their head ...more
The Brothers
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cats, math, probability, soccer
A boy awakes with a cat on his head and the only way to get the cat off is to "beat the odds." The cat proceeds to educate the boy on what probability is all about. Will the kid be able to get the cat off his head in time for the big soccer game. What are the odds....?

Dex (4yo) really liked this book, though I get the feeling he didn't understand what most of it was about.

Great illustrations.
Kate Hastings
Oct 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: math-and-science
--grades 2-5
--When Ethan wakes up there is a cat “Odds” stuck to his head
--won’t get off until he can beat the odds
--pull out a dime from a coin jar
--pull out a matching sock from the sock drawer
--choosing a matching marble
--finding a matching animal cracker
--uses odds to predict his chances of making a soccer goal using certain shots.
--can use the examples in the story to learn about probability.
Meg Robinson
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this story! I loved how throughout the story it developed the ideas of probability, from at the beginning talking about winning and losing odds to talking about equivalent fractions by the end. A lovely story that children would find amusing, and one that could be made interactive too with a story sack with each of the odds games in. Just a massive shame that probability is no longer on the curriculum!
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A Math Adventure book that teaches about odds and probability. The cat named Odds sits atop Ethan's head and the adventure begins. The story is so unlikely and so cute that it just captured our imagination. ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: math
I gave this 5 stars because it is an amusing story that entertained my kids while explaining probability. The goal of this book was accomplished.
Meredith Kaupp
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fun story to introduce probability to students. Plus, there's a probability riddle for them to solve at the end. ...more
STEPHanie Collao
Oct 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to STEPHanie by: reviewed for public school library
Shelves: kiddie-books
Good book that teaches the theory of probability. I enjoyed the way the author illustrated how probability works and how to apply it to everyday life uses.
Jul 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Students will easily understand the idea of probability after reading this book.
Jun 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: math
I found this story fun, creative, and very engaging at introducing young readers to the concept of probability.

(view spoiler)
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: math
This is a very strange setup for doing probability. (Also, the very first example with the coins is so easy to "cheat" at! A dime and a penny feel different!)

The probability is all based on counting outcomes; there's no more clever calculations. That's fine but good to know for talking with kids about the book. The one place where that gets a little weird is with the soccer problem at the end with the soccer example. The error bars on those percentages would definitely make them indistinguishabl
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really appreciate this story by Edward Einhorn, because it shows how things in our everyday life can be used in probability. when I was reading this book I noticed that almost all of the examples of probability is something that we see in our everyday lives. So, as a future mathematics teacher, I would definitely use this book when discussing probabilities with the class.
Jun 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: math, humorous
How do you get a cat named "Odds" off your head? You win a game of chance! This is a humorous tale that has a mathematical purpose -- to teach kids about probability. And if you can't win? Put a hat over the cat on your head. ...more
April Grob
Dec 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Cute mentor text for teaching improbability and probability to students 3 to 8.
Oct 02, 2021 rated it it was ok
I liked the illustrations.
As far as the story— it was good for what it was I guess. But, any book that has a glaring message doesn’t sit well with me.
Nov 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
An amusing way to introduce probability to kids. My kid was a bit turned off by the "math adventure" subtitle, but once you've got a cat on a kids head, she was interested. ...more
Apr 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sweet-p-reads
Cute little math story about probability and odds and how we can use it in real life.
May 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: picture-books
I hate how hard it seems to be for people to write normal books with math thrown in. *sigh*
Jo Oehrlein
Sep 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: picture-books, math
The story's pretty weak and not well explained. The boy awakes with a cat on his head and the cat won't leave until the boy wins a low-odds contest like picking out two identical colored balls from a set, etc.

Some of the contests would be easy to win (it's easy to select the right coin because different coins have different dimensions and features).

There was really no context for most of the probability, although he did calculate the number of possibilities some times. He "calculated" it, though
Khadija Bensaadoun
Apr 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: mathematics, ece-3601
A silly story about a cat who promises to get off the boys head if he wins a game on probability. This is a good resource to use when teaching probability because it shows how probability van be used with coins, marbles, socks and many other things! Activity: students will work with a pa partner and they will flip a coin 20 times. Each time a coin is flipped they will record if it landed on heads or tails. At the end the teacher will discuss the data that the students collected.
Interesting subject, nicely illustrated, but for some reason not as engaging as I was hoping. Not sure if any kid under ten would really get the concepts presented here, the way they are explained (or not explained). But, a great idea that can most definitely spark interest. Maybe this book can be complimented with some other book that provides more clarifications.
Jul 23, 2012 rated it liked it
This is more of a "teaching book" than a "sit down and enjoy" book. It does have a fun backstory, but it includes a lot of helpful explicit teaching about probability and statistics in kid-friendly terms. Not the kind of book kids would likely choose to read at home, but somewhat fun to read in class.

Possible extension in math lesson.
Jul 05, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gr. 3 and up
Ethan wakes up with an unfamiliar cat named Odds on his head. The cat promises to get off the child's head if Ethan can win a game of probability. What follows is a math story intended to teach "what the odds are." ...more
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
Useful, I suppose, if you're a math teacher, teaching probability while trying to integer ate literature. Seemed pretty preachy-teachy to me, though. ...more
Marnie Cushing
rated it it was amazing
Apr 18, 2014
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Edward Einhorn is a writer/theater director, based in New York. He has written plays about neurology; picture books about math; adaptations of sci-fi novels; translations of French and Czech absurdists and of ancient Greek drama; puppet theater; modern Oz novels; explorations of economic theory; autobiographical found text dramas; midrashim on Jewish cultural icons; a libretto for an oratorio; and ...more

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