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Updated: July 22, 2013 18:50 IST

Working magic into math

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Numbers can be fun if you know just how to tackle them. And to tackle them right you need to understand them better.

Let me begin with a question. What exists but does not? (Hint: It’s a number). Zero!

Just imagine an entire story about the magical number zero — powerful and significant.

Twins Mehul and Megha have a secret friend. And his name is Sir Tzyphyr. Tall and thin as a pencil, he wears a flowing old fashioned robe. Armed with numbers, he was no ordinary wizard. He is a Mathemagician and that gives him power greater than any ordinary magic ever would.


“We should never waste Moonlight,” said a familiar voice one night. Waking up Megha and Mehul saw their friend Sir Tzyphyr. They soon set off on a journey that would change their lives forever. From counting ducks, to feeding them and playing with marbles to thinking of symbols, the twins have an eventful night.

“With Zero or Shunya as the ancient Indians named it one is armed with an invisible power that will add weight to everything around us,” Sir Tzyphyr says. Megha and Mehul have so many questions and they find answers with the many puzzles they have been given to solve.

The mysterious number Zero suddenly seems friendlier and familiar as they learn how to place it between numbers and in empty spaces. Sir Tzyphyr asks them one last question — “What’s the biggest number in the Universe?”

Read the book to find out everything about your new friend Zero. Of course, everything except the answer to Sir Tzyphyr’s last question. That’s a whole new book.

Rohini Chowdhury’s conceptualisation of the book, vivid illustrations and the many questions that are answered by the wizard help the story flow and weaves in a sense of understanding of the magic of mathematics — and all the wonder of zero. Her characters Megha and Mehul are curious, intelligent and full of questions. Numbers take on characteristics of their own and you get to know and like tham better by the end of the book. Every story is an adventure — exploring the fascinating world of numbers, learning how numbers are used to measure, count and set things in order. Get ready for yet another mathemagical adventure with them!

MATHEMAGIC THE MOST POWERFUL NUMBER OF THEM ALL, Rohini Chowdhury, Penguin Publishers, Rs. 199

An excerpt:

‘No more food, no more ducks,’ said Mehul nodding wisely at his sister. He understood perfectly why the ducks had gone away!

‘There were five of them, and now there are zero!’ said Megha sadly.

‘Ah! Zero! The most magical, the most powerful number in the universe!’ exclaimed the Wizard dramatically. Pulling out the magic pencil that he always kept behind his ear, he drew a big, glowing circle in the air and scribbled the word “zero” beneath it, like this:



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