Starting with a single tree, ‘A Million Dots’ introduces the number one. Simple and uncluttered, it stands proudly alone, but turning the page sees this doubled to two trees. Next, four red apples stand out against their green leaves. As the trees turn brown, eight red apples lie on the ground. On each spread, the numbers double until the reader sees 1,048,576 dots in the final six page pull-out.
On the left hand page, the number in digits is clearly written whilst at the top of the opposite page the answer is written in words above its dotted representation. This is itself offers much potential for discussion about how we record numbers (both in digits and words), number patterns, doubling, repeated addition, etc, but the simple graphic illustration which accompanies each number offers so much more.
Children are fascinated by big numbers and when I presented them with this book, they instantly wanted to check that the sum was correct - and then count the number of dots! With the lower numbers, this was easy, but it soon led to conversations about finding shortcuts and using what they know about number to help them. The pictures where the majority of dots are arranged into rectangles allowed them to count columns and rows whereas the scattered pictures produced different challenges. Were there 2,048 stars reflected in the ocean the boat sails on? Was the moon-and its reflection- included in the total count? The quality of mathematical language and thinking, however, was amazing to listen to. There were, of course, those who just wanted to believe all the dots were there and just enjoy the concept and artwork!
The choice of image also provoked discussion. Are the 64 dots Smarties tumbling from a tube? Confetti from a party popper? Is that the pink tail of the mouse curled round the edge of the page opposite? How many pages would a picture containing 2,097,152 dots need? How small would those dots need to be? The effect of the dots as they got smaller and closer together also led to discussions about pointillism and the work of artists like Georges Seurat.
Simple, yet stunning, ‘A Million Dots’ is a great book for exploring and discussing numbers wherever you are!
A Million Dots Sven Völker
Cicada Books ISBN: 978-1908714664