SUMMARY: The man who counted was written by Malba Tahan. The author is Muslim (as noted by his acknowledgments of praise to Allah) and it is interesting to note that within the book, the Five Pillars of Faith that Muslim's adhere to are embedded in the text. The book has two man characters. The person who is telling the story, Hanak Tade Maia. Hanak is the man who stumbled upon the other character, the man who counted. The man who counted's name was Beremiz Samir. The book follows the pair. The pair comes across event after event in which the man who counted uses his skills to help solve problems. An example of the problems solved in the book are; Three brothers are given a total of 35 camels for their inheritance. 1/2 of the camels go the the oldest, 1/3 to the middle, and 1/9 to the youngest. The brothers could not come up with a solution. Beremiz added his own camel to the 35 others making a total of 36. He then did the division. The oldest got 18, the middle 12, and the youngest 4. Beremiz then explained that all the brothers should be happy with this agreement because the original count was 17.5, 11 "and some" and 3 "and sum". Beremiz explained that all the brothers received more than they would have with the division of 35. Then he explained that 18 + 12 + 4 = 34 camels. There were two camels left and Beremiz said one belonged to him because he had added one camel to the count. He then claimed that the other also belonged to him becasue he had been able to solve their dispute. All three brothers were happy with this solution. These are the kind of problems Beremiz solves throughout the whole book.

Review: Our group really liked this book. It was an easy read with short chapters. In general, each chapter contained one problem in which the man who counted solved. These problems were very intriguing. Often when a problem was posed and then answered, we found ourselves looking back to verify the solution or see who it was derived. There are a lot of useful problems in here that could be used within a classroom. A teacher could give the students a problem, and let them try to solve it. Then the teacher could give the students the solution and have them make sense of it. In addition to math, this book can gives students a glimpse of a different culture. This could be a good book for teachers to team up with other subjects, like Social Studies or English, to create a collaborative unit. Social Studies teacher could focus on the different culture and exploring it. English teachers could focus on critical reading skills that allow students to see information that is "between the lines".


The Man Who Counted by Malba Tahan
This is a captivating math story book. It is a collection of mathematical adventures of a man with remarkable mathematical skills. He uses his math skills to settle conflict and give wise advice. In the process, he earns himself some rich rewards.
This is a book that can be used in any classroom, fifth grade and on up. It helps extend the reader’s understanding and use of arithmetic operations to integers, fractions, and rational numbers.
The following are some activities a teacher may use as portfolio products in his/ her classroom to help extend students’ understanding and use of arithmetic operations to integers and fractions. The activities constitute of problems found in the “Man Who Counted.” The solutions to the problems can also be found in the book. However, they are not included in the activities.

Goal: Extend student’s understanding and use of arithmetic operations to integers and fractions

Activity #1: Beasts of Burden
Read the following text from “The Man Who Counted” and answer the follow up question.

Close to an old half abandoned inn, we saw three men arguing heatedly beside herd of camel.
Amid the shouts and insults the men gestured wildly in fierce debate and we could hear their angry cries:
“It cannot be!”
“That is robbery!”
“But I do not agree!”
The intelligent Beremiz asked them why they were quarreling.
“We are brothers,” the oldest explained, “And we received thirty-five camels as our
inheritance. According to the express wishes of my father half of them belong to me, one-
third to my brother Hamed, and one-ninth to Harim, the youngest. Nevertheless we do
not know how to make the division, and whatever one of us suggests the other two
disputes. Of the solutions tried so far, none have been acceptable. If half of 35 is 17.5 if
neither one-third nor one-ninth of this amount is a precise-number, then how can we
make the division?"

Follow up: How can we make a fair division?


Activity #2: Food for Thought
Read the following text from “The Man Who Counted” and answer the follow up question.

Three days later, we were approaching the ruins of a small village called Sippar when
we found sprawled on the ground a poor traveler, his clothes in rags and he apparently
badly hurt. His condition was pitiful. We went to the aid of the unfortunate man, and he
later told us the story of his misfortune.
His name was Salem Nasair and he was one of the richest merchants in Baghdad. On
the way back from Basra a few days before bound for el-Hillah, his large caravan had
been attacked and looted by a band of Persian desert nomads, and almost everyone had
perished at their hands. He, the head, managed to escape miraculously hiding in the sand
among the bodies of his slaves.
When he had finished his tale of woe, he asked us in a trembling voice, “Do you by
some chance have anything to eat? I am dying of hunger.”
“I have three loaves of bread.” I answered.
“I have five,” said the Man Who Counted.
“Very well,” answered the sheik. “I beg you to share those loaves with me. Let me
make an equitable arrangement. I promise to pay for the bread with eight pieces of gold,
when I get to Baghdad.”
Then Salem Nazair said to us, “I take leave of you my friends. I wish however to thank you
once more for your help and, as promised, to repay your generosity.” Turning
to the Man Who Counted, he said, “Here are rive gold pieces for your.
To my great surprise, the Man Who Counted made a respectful objection. “Forgive
me, O Sheik! Such a division, although apparently simple, is not mathematically correct.
Since I gave five loaves, I should receive seven coins. My friend, who supplied three
loaves, should receive only one.”
“In the name of Muhammad!” exclaimed the vizier, showing a lively interest. “How
can this stranger justify such an absurd division?”

Follow up: Explain Beremiz thought process?


Group Contributions:
Carrie Clark- Summary and Review
Ibrahim Konate- Activities