The freebie promotion of More Number Magic is over. It has fallen off the front page of GoodKindles, and it's back to its normal price of $0.99 or whatever Amazon calculates as the equivalent in GBP, Euros or other currencies. I'll let it stew for a while, and introduce you to its elder brother, Number Magic – the first book in what I plan as a long series.
If your child really won't read (or have someone read to them) anything that isn't full of cutesy illustrations and dumbed-down text, these books are not for you. Bright, lively children like my 8 year old granddaughter still enjoy being childish at times, but they also switch off if the books they read don't challenge them. Dilly was about seven and a half when I wrote the Kindle eBook 'Secret Writing' for her. She was delighted, but insisted on finishing the second Harry Potter book before reading my book about codes and ciphers.
Most of us put our children through traditional schools of some kind because we lack the time, the skills or the motivation to educate them at home. We can and should still encourage them to be inquisitive and adventurous out of school in ways that even the best teachers cannot do with a class of 30 children who vary widely in confidence, skills and background.
Each time I introduce a trick, a puzzle or a mathematical skill, I also ask the reader to think about it – to understand why it works, and perhaps to modify it. There are people who feel that this destroys innocent enjoyment of apparently magical tricks. I disagree strongly. The world of mathematics has more magic in it than simple conjuring tricks, and children should explore each bit of both the physical and the mental worlds as soon as they are equipped to do so.
Guidance and encouragement is what we should give them, not 'wait until you're older'. It takes ten minutes to train a crawling baby to turn round and go down stairs backwards in perfect safety. If, instead, you install a gate at the head of the stairs, one of two things is very likely to happen: a bigger child will forget to close it, or that baby will climb the gate when it is only a little older, and fall from the top of it.
Young children gain knowledge and skills so rapidly that they quickly outgrow a lot of their books. I have deliberately structured the Number Magic books so that the young reader can skip the difficult bits, trusting that their innate curiosity will make them return to tackle them later. This also means that the book has enough real meat in it to appeal to quite a few adults. For instance, can you easily add two long numbers in your head? Or do you understand number-based card tricks well enough to modify them?
I am sure the world is full of boys and girls like Dilly, whose parents are always looking for ways to challenge and amuse them, so I offer the Number Magic series to those who are still too young to tackle Martin Gardner, Simon Singh or Marcus du Sautoy. I have deliberately kept them short and priced them as low as Amazon will let me, and I encourage you to lend them to other people.