English: A hot air balloon in flight at the Mi...

A hot air balloon in flight at the Mid-Hudson Valley balloon festival along the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the best things about Robert E. Wells’ book, “Can You Count to a Googol?” is that he takes you through the build-up of numbers slowly.

Both author and illustrator, he shows you a whimsical imagining of 1, inviting readers to see themselves with one banana balancing on their nose.

By the time you get to 100 bananas balancing on 10 monkeys, you have slipped quietly into the understanding that adding zeros adds places in a number and multiplying by 10 does the same thing – a pretty powerful concept he shows with silliness.

And, then, he shows you what 100 eagles would look like, if they were in the shape of a hot air balloon carrying you through the sky to give you still another view of what 100 looks like. Before you’re done, you’ve seen 1,000 and 10,000 and 100,000 and penguins and pennies and marshmallows.

By the time you get to million and billion, he is explaining what you use such large numbers for, measuring space and time and stacks of bills. The stacks of bills ends up being particularly useful when he goes on to 10 million, 100 million and one billion because now you have some idea of scale when you compare them.

By now, you are enchanted at how big the numbers are and Wells easily leads you to a trillion, quadrillion, quintillion, octillion and, finally, a googol.

If he’d just started with the definition that a googol is a one with 100 zeroes behind it, it wouldn’t have meant anything. This way, by the time you get to a googol, you know how big it is. And, you will know there are even bigger numbers than googol, because, as he says, you can always add another zero.

Order a copy of Wells’ book, “Can You Count to a Googol?” from amazon by clicking on the title or the image below.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers”



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