Saturday, April 24, 2010

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci

The Fibonacci sequence starts with 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144,233,377. You get these numbers by adding the two previous numbers in the sequence. This sequence was discovered by Leonardo Fibonacci, an Italian mathematician who lived during the Middle Ages.  It was through the construction of his famous rabbit problem that he discovers this sequence.  Using historical information and his own creativity, Joseph D'Agnese (from western North Carolina!) has crafted the entertaining Blockhead, which is a first person account of Fibonacci's life. Leonardo explains how he is often criticized (hence the title) for being a dreamer of numbers. His father is unhappy with Fibonacci and wants him to forget about his dreaming of numbers and follow him in the merchant business. Young Leonardo does his father's bidding, but in his spare time studies mathematics in the countries where he travels while being a merchant. He falls in love with Hindu-Arabic numerals (our current numerals) which leads to the rabbit problem and writing a book about these numerals.  This doesn't endear him to his Italian compatriots who prefer their own Roman numerals.

D'Agnese's narrative will be interesting to students on different levels.  Kids can relate to someone who thinks differently and is mistreated. This is a theme that catches their attention.  The mathematics angle of Blockhead will also be interesting to them.  After reading, a great exercise would be to find Fibonacci numbers in our world.  The last page of the book is a great starting point for this activity since D'Agnese provides several suggestions and questions for students to ponder. There is also an art angle with rectangles and spirals created by the sequence of numbers. Blockhead would be a valuable book for your collection in grades 3-5.


  1. Thanks, Jeff!

    Best wishes,
    Joe D'Agnese

  2. Thank you, Joe! The book is terrific.