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The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  6,160 ratings  ·  692 reviews
The international best-seller that makes mathematics a thrilling exploration

In twelve dreams, Robert, a boy who hates math, meets a Number Devil, who leads him to discover the amazing world of numbers: infinite numbers, prime numbers, Fibonacci numbers, numbers that magically appear in triangles, and numbers that expand without end. As we dream with him, we are taken furth
Paperback, 264 pages
Published May 1st 2000 by Holt McDougal (first published 1997)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  6,160 ratings  ·  692 reviews

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Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: children, year-2012
I love the idea of a novel that relies on and promotes interest in math, but the execution here just fell way short for me. The story itself - that a boy who hates math learns to like it through a series of dreams in which he interacts with a Number Devil - is a little thin and repetitive. But what I found bothered me the most were the explanations of the math concepts. I've seen some great nonfiction books that make math concepts interesting AND explain them in multiple ways for students who ca ...more
Lance Greenfield
Feb 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comfort-reads
This book makes maths fun, even for those little people who believe it to be a laborious trudge through treacle. In fact, that would describe Robert, the main character in this book. He has been struggling with maths for as long as he can remember. One night, he dreams that he meets a little devil, The Number Devil, who teaches him, as he sleeps, all sorts of useful tricks with numbers.

When you enjoy something, and gain immediate benefit, you obviously learn more.

My Dad made all aspects of mathe
David Madrigal
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was by far the most interesting book I have read in years. I found it really interesting as the concepts in mathematics were very interesting, yet explained in simple terms. (view spoiler) ...more
Jan 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: children
Imagine that a math teacher wanted to write a children's book to show kids how cool math really was; but since it's a math teacher and not an English teacher doing the writing, all you end up with are math concepts written out in analogies similar to what you'd hear in a math classroom -- that's what this book is like. The story is about a boy named Robert who hates his math class and math teacher and by extension math in general. He falls asleep and over a series of twelve different dreams over ...more
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
Random math thinly disguised as a novel. I get what it's trying to do but it feels more like the kind of characters that kids' textbooks have to make the info more "fun." there isn't a plot here. But if it gets kid's reading about math then go go go. Plus, the illustrations are really cute. ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, favorites, maths, 2015
Great book.

It talks about maths in a way that is as simple as 1+1=2.
I was way behind in maths going into high school, and I have learnt so much from this book in 1-2 months.
I learnt stuff like Fractions, Bonacci/Fibonacci numbers, Decimals, Factorial (Vroom!), Hopping numbers, Prima Donnas, and Triangle numbers.

My favorite was the "Hopping Numbers". I spent a good part of a day just writing them all down. I wrote down 55 hopping numbers, and the biggest one I did was 18,014,398,509,481,984, whic
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
January 8, 2019 -
4 Stars
I read this with my grade six students. They figured out the problems as we went. The story/plot itself was kind of boring but I enjoyed the problems and the student solving them.
Anne Hamilton
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
...But as he stood in front of his mirror in his pajamas, brushing his teeth, he felt something tickling his chest and looked down to see a tiny five-pointed star on a thin golden chain. He couldn't believe his eyes. This time his dream had come true! ...After he'd dressed, he took the chain off and stuck it in his pocket: he didn't want his mother asking silly questions. ...Where'd that star come from? she'd want to know the minute she saw it. Boys don't wear jewelry! ...How could he tell he
Jan 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What do you get when you cross Alice in Wonderland with a small, red, horned man obsessed with numbers? No, it isn't an arithmetic problem--it's a middle school math primer!

Robert, a boy who hates math and is frustrated because his teacher doesn't allow calculators, has strange dreams all the time. One night he dreams up a character called the Number Devil, who takes him away to a surreal world of numbers where Robert learns basic math concepts and a few handy shortcuts. After all, says the Numb
Kelly Jahng
Jun 18, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was a lot of fun. I'm a big fan of Flatland, so I enjoy anytime math can be turned into a story. This book doesn't have a ton of story, but just enough to make it a page turner. Robert's math teacher, Mr. Bockel doesn't seem to be a very inspiring educator, doing little else but assigning word problems while surreptitiously munching on pretzels. Robert thinks math is confusing and boring. All that changes when his dreams are visited by a strange genie-like character called The Number D ...more
Jose Moa
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, mathematics
This book told as a 12 nights dream of a child with a mathematical devil is a serious attempt to prove that mathematics can be entertaining,interesting,beautiful and fun and not a boring,useless,ugly and hermetic subject.

It is aimed mainly to young teens,but is also enjoyable by adults that for some reason hate the maths or have a wrong concept of this field.

Is a tale where departing of elemental concepts as natural numbers,prime numbers,powers and square roots introduce more advanced concepts a
Mar 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book is a thinly veiled novelization of a few math problems. It's wrapped in a story about a boy with crazy dreams that begins dreaming about math and learning things from a number devil.

My impression was that the book got the formula all wrong. The story is nonsensical and tedious, so you're ready to get to the math. The math is then explained via conversation between the main character and the number devil, so you really have to reflect on the topics after each chapter to understand them.
Dany Hdz
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well, that was interestingly cute... like if you took math class in Wonderland or if you studied math on drugs, or something, but I cannot deny it was great.

Honestly, I don’t think this book will make you better at math, however it may help you understand some complex theoretical concepts, since it doesn’t focus in the applied mathematics, but rather in the pure theory behind them.

The narration is fantastic and creative, and in fact, pretty attractive. Besides, the pictures and dares really co
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
I've been meaning to read this book for a long time, as it came highly recommended by both my kids. After reading it, I can see why. The author has written a loose structure of a novel in order to painlessly and seamlessly teach children some basic math concepts. Along the way, he makes math fun and interesting and accessible. (I actually happen to think math *is* fun and interesting and accessible, but I realize that not everyone does.)
The book is geared towards middle schoolers, but it works w
Jul 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
Nein, Nyet, Non, Nee, Votch, Nej, Nan, Oxi, Minime - how many ways can I say No to this book? As a certified math-phobic, I have to check in once in a while to see just what it is that causes my throat to close, my mind to go blank, and my skin to break out in a rash when faced with anything math related. I thought, "OK, how bad can a kid's book be?" The answer: Pretty fecking awful. Rutabaga numbers? What the hell are they talking about? Bonacci numbers? I thought the man's name was Fibonacci. ...more
Jan 23, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am at my mothers house right now, which for me means rereading childhood classics that did not follow me to uni. This one isn't something I remember reading a lot, but somehow it made it on my nightstand.

It's cute, a math book for a young audience, and the beginning works well for me. However, it does become a bit tedious, especially since things are shown, not really explained and weird words are invented to do so. I now know why this didn't become a favorite of mine: you never quite learn wh
Feb 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Funny book about a number devil who meets a boy and converts him from a maths hater to a mathematician. My only bad thing is that it is maths but the story is funny.
Sep 19, 2022 rated it really liked it
Very charming
Jun 14, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

If I was a child I would have loved this book, and I don't love maths. It was an intersting reading and I enjoeyed the things that you can learn while reading it. I think I'll recommend it to every kid (and not) who wants to read about math!
Jonathan Donihue
What a truly novel idea for a novel. Absolutely extraordinary!

Although this is a book written for a young audience, I, as a 49 year old college student, found it both entertaining and instructional. In addition to a great story, The Number Devil sports some wonderful illustrations and several imaginative crafts projects for the budding mathematician.

Whether you have a schoolchild or not, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of The Number Devil. You won't be sorry you did. 😈 😈 😈
Apr 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting information, but I was annoyed by the wrong names for mathematical things. The author explained his reason for this at the end, but I think he could have kept closer to he facts. The book is meant to make non-maths lovers like maths. I think it tries but is still too complex in many parts to do this. I did find some interesting bits.
Mar 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
I read this to my son because he was getting burnt out on his math curriculum. I don’t know if this was any better for him, haha! A tad complex for a 7-year-old. He did seem to enjoy my devil voice though. A lot of crazy math stuff that I love to investigate more thoroughly if I had the time to. And a fun story taking you through it all.
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
this is honestly just one of those perfect books—i love the writing as well as the illustrations. i also love math but even if you hate math this book will make you think about it a little differently
Shannon Rantala
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It was a really interesting book. I think students would enjoy reading it since it makes learning math sound fun and exciting.
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This book is like a maths textbook but make it a fictional story. Such a fun read believe it or not. Extremely interesting.
Vanita Maharaj
May 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was 11 years old. It had such a profound impact on me, it changed the trajectory of my entire life. Thank you Hans. Mathematics will always be me first and greatest love.
Nov 28, 2021 rated it it was ok
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Amazing book. It teaches advanced mathematics in a way so children can understand. The pictures are really cute, too.
Aug 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Clearly a math book. I found myself skimming the math and hoping for a story. The math explanations were good and clear, I just got bored and distracted. Maybe better read alod with someone to work the math with.
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a weird little book. It was originally written in German, and I’m wondering if we’re missing a lot in translation. The dialogue is very stilted. It’s lacking the charm one would expect in a book of this type.

This book is about a boy named Robert who hates math. He has dreams where he meets with a devil who calls himself a number devil. He teaches Robert about some of the more crazy and interesting things numbers do. The proper names for these math concepts are not used in the course of t
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Cyrillic: Ханс Магнус Енценсбергер

Hans Magnus Enzensberger is a German author, poet, translator and editor. He has also written under the pseudonym Andreas Thalmayr.

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