Book Review: Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi

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The adventures continue for Sir Cumference, Lady Di, and Radius!  

I am reviewing a hands-on book introducing children ages 6 and up to the number Pi.  I am quickly becoming a fan of Cindy Neuschwander's math adventure picture book series!    

Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi details Radius' race against the clock to find a cure for Sir Cumference who unwittingly turned into a fire breathing dragon!  When looking for a cure for his father, Radius finds his clue written in a poem and taped to a strange container.


Radius is desperate to find help for his father and to solve this puzzling riddle!  His harrowing quest is helped along by carpenters Geo and Sym of Metry and his cousin, Lady Fingers, who is making pies.  While watching Geo and Sym, he learns that "no matter where you look around the circle, the spokes go across the middle and cut the circle exactly in half".  He then takes that knowledge and uses strips of dough from Lady Fingers to re-create the spokes of the wheel on top of the pie.  From there, the author skillfully takes the reader through the process of measuring the inches across the middle of a wheel and also the inches around the outside edge.  The number of inches counted around the edge of the wheel is then divided by the number of inches counted across the wheel.  Radius measures wheels of different sizes and comes up with the same answer: The distance around is 3-1/7 times the distance across!

I was absolutely enthralled with the next pages.  Lady Di, after hearing the information Radius just learned, drew diagrams of 4 different circles found in everyday life.  The diagrams are simple and basic and show the reader the relationship between the outside distance of the circle, to the distance across the circle.  This definitely aids in the understanding of Pi!  

Radius uses this information to try to help his father--before the knights kill the "dragon".  I will not tell what happens with Radius' father, but one of my daughters did say she liked the "happy ending of the story the best." :o)

While the book publisher states this book is intended for ages 6+, I would disagree.  Kids of all ages WILL be entertained immensely by the castle and the knights and the fire-breathing dragon found in the book, but there is a rather large chunk of the book dedicated to dividing and fractions.  My 7-year-old, being pretty average for her age level in Math, did get "glazy-eyes" during parts of the book.  

However, there are ways to help the younger student connect with this book.  Find a round object around your house--something the book uses in their own diagrams, perhaps:  a basket, a round cheese, an onion slice, a bowl.  Then, demonstrate the measurement of the circle using a flexible measuring tape.  Have the children try it out for themselves.  Don't expect them to grasp the concepts completely--yet.  But do encourage and praise them for what they are able to grasp.  And remember--no amount of exposure to these concepts is too much or too early!  Allow the learning to be fun!  This book is a great way to do that.  

As for the older student, enhance their learning with this great extension book of lesson plans, which can be used for all the Sir Cumference books!