Monday, April 10, 2017

Perfectly illustrated information

Animals by the Numbers: a book of animal infographics by Steve Jenkins is well worth picking up for teaching both science and math for grades 2-7.

As is Steve Jenkins’ typical MO (and stated in the title) this book is all about the animal world that he finds fascinating, giving us tons of statistical information as infographics. I keep waiting to have that ‘been there, done that’ feeling when Jenkins comes out with a new book but it's yet to come. He continues to find fresh ways to introduce us to the endlessly fascinating natural world.

And what’s not to be enthralled by?

Whether he’s looking at the big picture (invertebrates vs vertebrates or the number of species such as 5,500 mammals vs 1 million species of insects) or the finer details (size, speed, life spans, heartbeats, tongue size, amount of sleep) he presents the numbers in captivating graphs and charts.  And when you’re a math-a-phob like me, that says a lot.

Steve Jenkins has an amazing ability to capture and hold the interest of his readers by looking at ranges of animals, comparing and contrasting characteristics and behaviours that illustrate just how nuanced, varied and adaptive the animal kingdom is. Comparing humans in some cases certainly may put us in our place. Compare the biomass of all the humans in the world, 350 million tons to that of all insects, 100 billion tons and you can see what I mean.

The illustrations are composed of paper cut outs and paired with various types of pie, flow and bar charts, histograms, pictograms and graphs. These representations are clear and easy to understand.  He finds ways to make each topic relatable to basic knowledge levels. For instance when comparing the loudness level between species he includes noises produced by humans too such as those from lawn mowers, chainsaws, firetrucks or jet planes. Did you know that a cicada  produces the same level as noise as a firetruck? Or, that a bulldog bat makes a sound that falls in the same range as a jet plane?

I highly recommend this addition to Steve Jenkins' body of work for any classroom.  Those interested in animals and nature will be captivated


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