Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

Book Review: Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland: A Math Adventure

Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland: A Math Adventure
By Cindy Neuschwander
Illustrated by Wayne Geehan
Charlesbridge Publishing, 2001
Age Range: 6 and up

Puns! Math! Puns about Math! What could be better? (Maybe a fresh-baked snickerdoodle, but since I’m reviewing Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland, and not the Flour cookbook that was tucked behind it in the Amazon box, for the purposes of this post, Puns about Math pretty much take the biscuit.)

Flush with success over Fibonacci, I decided to try out a few more math books on The Four-Year-Old. The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat seemed promising at first, but upon further inspection proved to be a pay grade or two above even The Four-Year-Old. So I tucked Penrose discreetly back on the shelf to wait for The Four-Year-Old to evolve into The Seven-Year-Old, and trudged back to Amazon to browse the shelves once more.

While flicking through the “Customers who bought this item also bought” slide, I stumbled upon the Sir Cumference series by Cindy Neuschwander. After reviewing the available options, I picked what I hoped would be a relatively simple one.

The story revolves around Radius, a young boy growing up in a version of medieval England who wants to become a knight and go out on a quest of his own. Before he does, though, he has satisfy his teacher, Sir D’Grees, that he has mastered the basics of the Knightly Right Angle, sword fighting, and archery.

After a successful demonstration of his skills before his parents, Sir Cumference and Lady Di of Ameter, Radius is assigned a quest: to find his missing neighbor, King Lell, who has fallen into the clutches of the dastardly Zig and Zag. To help him along the way, his parents give him a family heirloom–

a medallion in the shape of a perfect circle.

“What are these numbers around the edge of the medallion?” Radius asked.

“No one knows,” Lady Di answered, “but may it bring you courage on your journey.”

The medallion is, of course, a protractor, but as a good mother, I allowed The Four-Year-Old to revel in the mystery of the heirloom along with Radius.

The quest, as you may have guessed, required Radius to measure lots and lots of angles. The book includes a paper version of the medallion, which The Four-Year-Old used to check Radius’ work.

When Radius had successfully completed his quest, The Four-Year-Old closed the book with a small sigh.

“Can we ever go there, Mommyo?”

“Where, The Four-Year-Old?”



“Great! I’ll be sure to pack the medallions.”

“Medallion. There’s just one.”

The Four-Year-Old disappeared upstairs. When she returned, she handed me a hand-drawn medallion of my own. “You’ll need this.”

Yes. Yes, I will.

Puns and preschooler art aside, this book achieves what Neuschwander set out to do, namely introduce basic concepts about angles and how you use a protractor to measure them. I know this because as I was driving The Four-Year-Old home from preschool yesterday afternoon some 24 hours after reading this book, she treated me to a mini-lecture on the difference between acute, obtuse, right, and straight angles. A lecture she reinforced when we arrived home with a little help from her medallion.

And now it’s your turn. What are you reading this week?

(Cross-posted on bostonwriters.)

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