Collaborative Math for the Young: Eric Carle's "Rooster's Off to see the World"

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Grade Levels
1st - 4th
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25 pages
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This is a set of literature based math activities that is loosely based on Eric Carle's "Rooster's Off to see the World." In this wonderful tale, our hero rooster sets off to see the world and takes some companions along the way. In the epilogue to the book, Carle mentions how he was terrible at math, and that he wrote this story to help young people with counting. What a great idea!

I designed these activities to develop not only mathematical skills, but to also encourage students to think and collaborate on how they solve mathematical problems. What you'll find is 25 pages of fun and exciting collaborative problem solving activities for children in grades 1 - 4. Now you might be saying, "but this is a children's picture book; why would I want to use it with older children?" Well, for one, Eric Carle's illustrations are beautiful, and sometimes it takes an older eye to appreciate their color and form. Second, the "message" of the book may not be apparent or memorable to younger children, so it's not a bad idea for older children to see it again. Third, math can be a very threatening subject to many children and using a context that is familiar will motivate many reluctant students to get involved. The book is beautiful, the story resonates, and the math is fun, so why not go for it?

I've created this so that your students can truly collaborate on doing mathematics beyond just sitting at a table and solving a problem: a big component of this set of activities is that the teacher and student get to create and share problems for one another. This means that a student who is struggling with math can engage a higher achieving student, or a reluctant student can offer advice to an eager student.

How can this be? Well, here's how it's done: after introducing sample problems to your students, there are sheets where the students create their own problems, which involves very little writing. All they have to do is cut out "stamps' that represent animals with different numbers of legs (to avoid copyright violations and to improve the mathematics, I used ostriches, wombats and ants, which have 2, 4 and 6 legs respectively.) They paste these stamps in the question boxes, which contain the question "how many legs?" They can then exchange their problems with other kids and show their solutions.

But there's so much more! Instead of just posing the question, students can also make up a "hint" sheet that they can attach to the question to help a student who might be stumped about how to approach it or what techniques to use. For example, if there were 2 ants and 3 wombats, the student might say, "combine one ant and one wombat to make an easy ten." The student who created the problem is also responsible for creating an answer sheet showing how to solve the problem.

But the fun doesn't end there: you can have a student who solves the problem compare the method he/she used to solve the problem with the one shown by the student who created the problem, and compare how they solved the problem: one student may choose to add or subtract the numbers in one way, while a different student does it another way; they then have the opportunity to compare the two solutions and show that while both are correct, one may be more "efficient" than the other.

Since these activities come in three parts (create question, write hint, show solution), you can also have students work in trios: they each create a problem, then pass it over to another student who writes and hint, and then passes it to the third student who writes out a solution (all on separate sheets of paper) and then you put it in a pile for students to work on.

One final note: you'll notice that one this (and all other activities henceforth) I will NO LONGER PUT THE "NAME" AT THE TOP OF THE ACTIVITY SHEET! Instead, I have chosen to put the phrase "created by" or "solved by" at the >bottom< of the sheet. This is because I want students to understand that math and art are a lot alike: we work on something first, and then when we're satisfied with what we've done, we sign it to show that we have worked hard on it. Have you ever heard of an artist signing a work >before< it's creation? That's how we should look at mathematics.....

This activity comes with an extensive description of how to use it, and what to think about while you're trying to teach math effectively!
Total Pages
25 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
2 days
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