“This book is based on a problem that was solved in the 13th century by the Mathematician Fibonacci, but it is NOT (I repeat NOT) a book about maths. It is a book about rabbits…Lots of rabbits!” So reads the back cover of Emily Gravett’s marvelous picture book entitled The Rabbit Problem. While advanced mathematics is not usually a basis for a book for children, Ms. Gravett tackles the subject with lots of fun extras and plenty of cute rabbits. The result is a great educational tool that can be enjoyed by very young children and may be useful to older children and adults as well.
The mathematical basis of the book is a problem posed by the mathematician Leonardo Pisano Bigollo, more commonly known as Fibonacci. He wanted to know what would happen if a pair of rabbits were placed into a field, and reproduce using the following rules:
- The rabbits are fully grown at the age of 1 month
- By the end of the second month, each pair produces another pair of rabbits
- Rabbits never die or leave the field, and each pair produces exactly one more pair
Fibonacci wanted to know how many pairs would be in the field at the end of each month and at the end of the year. The result is the now famous sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, etc. This sequence has many applications in mathematics and also shows up frequently in nature (for more information on the importance of the numbers, see the Wikipedia link at the end of the post).
Emily Gravett decides take us into the lives of these rabbits in the field. The book is laid out as a calendar with each month bringing a new problem or issue that the rabbits have to deal with. As we follow the first pair of rabbits through their year together (and their quickly growing family) we get to see them overcome loneliness, hunger and eventually overpopulation. While it is fun seeing each month get gradually more crowded as more and more rabbits enter the field according to the Fibonacci sequence, where the book really shines is in the extra pop-out sections each month. The rabbit-produced newspapers, cookbooks and other goodies provide endless entertainment and are also can teach the readers a little as well.
The Rabbit Problem is not your typical picture book. It doesn’t revolve around a gripping plot or a moral lesson, and the fact that it even mentions a 13th century mathematician is unique. What it does have is lots of lessons and lots of extra fun that make this book a must read. Whether you love math (like I do) or you love rabbits (and who doesn’t?), you should take a look at The Rabbit Problem.