Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens by Cindy Neuschwander


On October 9, Tamara reviewed Cindy Neuschwander’s Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland (illustrated by Wayne Geehan), a mathematical adventure involving angle measurement.  Since the “Sir Cumference” series is such a great tool for math teachers to review important concepts, it’s a good idea to get to know one of the other books in this series, also written by Neuschwander and illustrated by Geehan…

This story involves Sir Cumference and his wife, Lady Di of Ameter.  They decide to throw their king a surprise birthday party and invite everyone in the kingdom.  When the guests begin arriving, the unfortunate couple has the impossible task of figuring out how many meals they need to provide, in order for everyone to eat.  After trying various options – including forming circles of people and having them form a single-file line – they figure out that the guests could line up in rows of 10, so that all Lady Di of Ameter needs to do is count the rows.  There are still so many rows, though, that she needs to tell the guests to separate themselves by every ten rows, to equal 100 guests in each group.  Throughout the story, so many guests arrive that groups of 1000 need to be made to make the counting easier.

The mathematical adventure here is place value.  Sir Cumference and his wife ultimately organize the guests into groups of 1000, then 100, then 10, and finally the remaining individuals.  The cool thing about this story is that the numbers within the text are represented as words (e.g. “They had eight groups of one thousand, nine groups of one hundred…”), but the illustrations express the numbers as numerals.  This allows students to directly compare the plot to the colorful pictures they are seeing on every page.

Of course, the story has a happy ending, too — all of the guests get fed and enjoy a huge cake shaped like a castle!

–Derek Reinhold


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