4 Fibonacci Picture Books for a Cool Look at Math in Nature

Did you know that nature has a numbering system? Yep, there is a secret code. Whether you’re looking at leaves on a plant, petals on a flower, the bracts of a pinecone, or the bumps on a pineapple, there is one sequence that rules the growth of every living thing – from a single cell to even you!

The pattern is simple . . . 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13. Just add the two last numbers to see what comes next . . . 21, 34, 55 and so on. It’s the rule for everything that spirals in nature, like the nautilus, as well as beehives, daisies, and more.

It’s Fibonnaci’s Golden Ratio. And it’s absolutely mystifying! Just imagine your children’s eyes growing wide when you let them in on the secret. Whether they’re a naturalist or a math fiend, they’re sure to be impressed. Introduce your little ones to Fibonacci and inspire them to explore math in nature. 

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonnaci

By Joseph D’Agnese 

Absent-minded . . . lazy . . . dreamer . . . BLOCKHEAD! Fibonacci was an oddball at school, and the teacher let him know it. He was wild about numbers and counted everything. Seeds in apples, slices of cucumbers, twelve birds in a tree. How many eyes do they all have? How many legs and wings? And if each one sang for two seconds back to back, how long would the entire song take? Such was the stuff of Fibonacci’s dreams.

His teacher called him names and so did everyone else. His father wanted him to be a merchant. But Fibonacci had other plans. He had to play with numbers and, as a result, found the blueprint for how things grow.

A fictional biography, based on the few known facts on Fibonacci’s life, this book makes for a wonderful introduction to the man known today as the greatest mathematician of the Middle Ages. While the lovely illustrations have a medieval flair, the text is thoroughly modern, making for a nice read. A brief biography and related activities allow for additional exploration.

The Rabbit Problem

By Emily Gravett 

How can you make 1+1 equal 288? Fibonacci’s rabbit problem: “If you put two rabbits in a field, how many will you have in one year?” springs to life in the most beautiful illustrated and kid-friendly way. Gravett is one of the absolute masters of picture book illustration and design – and she definitely doesn’t disappoint here.

From cover to cover, this book is a real visual exploration of the rabbit puzzle. The endpapers introduce the concept and the title page has little ones following a bunny through its underground burrow out through a die-cut hole. On the next page, the bunny is in a field decorating the top of a faux wall calendar. And so the story, and the year, begins entirely told through scribbles marking important dates and events on the calendar. One rabbit plus one rabbit multiply throughout the months and seasons of the year with plenty of challenges along the way.

Jam-packed full of novelty items, there is so much to discover alongside the population explosion. Kids will love poring over all the visual details from a baby bunny record book to illustrated ultrasounds of twin rabbits, carrot recipes, and a miniature newspaper with biographical info on Fibonacci himself.

Extraordinary in every which way, Gravett shines once again with her clever storytelling, completely rich illustrations, and fantastic book design. It’s not just an awesome mathematical lesson, it’s truly a gift.

Rabbits Rabbits Everywhere

By Ann McCallum

The town of Chee has been blessed with plentiful crops. And to thank their good fortune, its residents offer up giant heads of cabbage, peas as large as marbles, and other wholesome goodies to the wizard up on the hill. That is, until the Pied Piper decides enough is enough– no more payments to the wizard! And then . . . the rabbit problem begins.

First there are two. The next day, more. Each day, there are more and more rabbits crunching away at the crops. The Pied Piper can’t get rid of them. It’s all up to a little girl, named Amanda, to save the town by figuring out the pattern of how they multiply.

With Amanda in the lead, the book does a wonderful job of taking children through the solution of the rabbit puzzle. Kiddos will follow her logical reasoning as Amanda cracks the pattern, making mathematical discoveries along the way.

Wild Fibonacci

By Joy N. Hulme 

Curious to see real examples of the Fibonacci sequence in nature? Take a journey through the animal kingdom and see evidence of the code practically everywhere. The numerical pattern forms the famous Golden Spiral, which Hulme introduces right off the bat. The book’s preface describes the famous sequence and includes a bit of information on the medieval mathematician behind it. Throughout the rest of the book, little readers can then spot the Golden Spiral on various creatures from tusk to talon, tooth to tail.

Kids will explore the beauty of mathematics in nature. Gorgeous illustrations will keep them engaged. But since most of the content on the numerical pattern is limited to the introduction, the book should be paired with others on the list as a complementary visual exploration.

Do you have a favorite math-based picture book? Share your recommendations with us!




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