cover image On Beyond a Million: An Amazing Math Journey

On Beyond a Million: An Amazing Math Journey

David M. Schwartz. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32217-1

This ""math journey"" progresses exponentially as kids try to keep up with the yield of an out-of-control popcorn machine. Professor X teaches them to count by powers of 10, demonstrating up to a googol (10100) and beyond, as the kids provide a running commentary. While they don't seem much closer to knowing how many kernels of popcorn they have, they do learn a lot of big numbers and entertain each other with such nonsense names as ""splendillion"" and ""elephantillion."" Schwartz (Magic of a Million Activity Book) originally used bags of popcorn to demonstrate powers of 10 in school presentations. However, here the hands-on technique of counting the kernels is never explained; the value of the popcorn example is less clear in book form. Sidebars rattle off numerical trivia, adding zeros on every spread (e.g., ""One little brown bat can snap up 600 mosquitoes per hour""; ""There are 40,000 different characters in Chinese""). These ever-larger numbers inspire Meisel's (The Fixits) lively cartoon illustrations of 105 bees and five billion (or 5 x 109) people in the world. While readers' minds will be reeling with zeroes, they will be buoyed by Schwartz's and Meisel's infinite enthusiasm for their subject. Ages 6-10. (Sept.)