The Number Devil

The Number Devil

Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Rotraut Susanne Berner

Maths are not everyone's cup of tea. To be sure, there are some people who can juggle numbers effortlessly. But for most of us they are very hard work indeed. Maybe that's because you can never see whether you've added up those numbers correctly or whether the teacher will say, once again: You'll never get it! Numbers are as dry as dust, they lack that magic spark that gives life to, say, black holes in space. That is Robert's opinion, too. Mathematics? Not for me, thanks very much!

But one night he no longer dreams of tumbling into a bottomless pit but of a crazy number-devil talking to him. That may sound like a fairy tale but it certainly isn't. Every time this magician turns up in Robert's dreams, he performs new number-juggling tricks. Isn't it strange, the way you get complete sequences of numbers by simply multiplying ones: 1 x 1 = 1, 11 x 11 = 121, 111111 x 111111 = 12345654321 and so on? And that's only the simple stuff. For twelve nights Robert dreams of more and more powerful numerical systems and orders. All of a sudden, numbers take on a life of their own although many things cannot be explained yet. At times even the number-devil can't say how it's done. For Robert, however, maths have never been so exciting. No wonder that he and the number-devil soon leave the school material behind and proceed to much higher mathematical plateaux. And still Robert understands! Fortunately, the young reader does, too. Numbers become more fascinating with every turn of the page. It's like magic. In amazement, he will check what Robert and the number-devil have just developed, and want to know more and more...until, finally, he and Robert soar straight into the heavenly spheres of science.

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The Number Devil

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