Craving a Pumpkin-flavored Math Picture Book?

Fall is in the air. Pumpkins everywhere. Even math picture books!




How many seeds in a pumpkin? is a Christopher-Award winning book by Margaret McNamara (McNamara is a pen-name honoring Brenda Bowen’s maternal grandmother). And she writes fairy stories! [Exclamation point explanation: When I first started writing for children, I wrote fairy fables. I was excited to find another writer inspired by both math and fairies ]

The story begins when Mr. Tiffin brings three pumpkins into class for a math and science lesson. He asks his students to guess how many seeds are inside. Discouraged, Charlie, the smallest in the class, doesn’t guess because  “All the best guesses are taken.” When the class opens the pumpkins to count the seeds, Charlie is left with the smallest pumpkin. He discovers “small things can have a lot going on inside them.”

G. Brian Karas’ harvest-hued illustrations expertly capture the feelings of fall and the student’s awe after the seed results are revealed.

The book is the perfect pumpkin-filled story for 4 years old and up.


How many seeds in a pumpkin? provides practice in skip counting by twos, fives, and tens. The illustrations invite children to use multiple counting methods. Here is an example of Liam (7) counting the seeds in the picture below in multiple ways.


Liam began counting by twos.

“Can you find another way to count?” I asked.

Noticing an array, he offered  “you could multiply.” He proceeded to count the first column of ten. Noticing there were 10 rows, he abandoned his multiplication strategy for a more familiar counting by 10s strategy. He began counting by tens, then quickly switched to counting by 20s  (since there are 10 pairs in the first column). He successfully counted to 360 using this method.


My children were inspired to count everything in this book, from the hands in the picture below to pages full of pumpkin seeds.


Not only did my children count as we read, they continued counting upon closing the book (e.g, counting scrabbled egg chunks, piano keys, grapefruit seeds).

Before sharing the seed illustrations, I asked, “How many seeds do you think are in the three pumpkins?” First, Liam decided they would have same amount, 21 each. But later decided that the smaller pumpkin had more because “he was counting by tens.”   Siena exclaimed,  “I can count by 10s! I just learned in school.”

Below Siena counts the small pumpkin’s seeds by 10s with “help” from me.

S: 10, 20, 30, 40, …100.

Me: So that’s 100. Start again, 10…

S: 10, 20, 30, …100.

I interupted again. (Ugh!)

Me: So now you have 200. And 10…

S: 10, 20, …, 100.

Me: How many is that?

S: Three hundred. (Continuing unprompted)  310, 320,…360!

I was stunned and ashamed of my over-scaffolding (guiding her to recount each 100 starting with 10). Siena breezed through the transitions from 300 to 310. Why was I anticipating a struggle that didn’t even exist?  Reminder: Listen more, talk less during our math talks!

After reading the story, we went to our local farm to pick our own pumpkins.  McNamara includes pumpkin facts in the book (e.g., the more lines on the pumpkin, the more seeds it will have), but explains that it’s difficult to end up with the situation presented in the book due to the variability of pumpkin varieties, pollination and time on the vine. As we searched, I complained that the large pumpkins had as many lines as the small ones. How would we choose? Liam had the best solution. “Mom, let’s just see!”

We will check Liam’s (pink post-its) and Siena’s ( yellow) guesses in a few weeks when we carve them. We’ll share our results @ the Math Book Magic Facebook page. If you click here and like the FB page, our results will show up in your feed.




Now go check out/purchase this book (if you haven’t already). Maybe it will be your fall favorite math picture book too!


Picked up this trio last week @ Mariano’s Market

Have a magical math book you’d like share? Please go to the Shared booklist to find out how.  If you’d like to receive these magical math book posts each Monday, be sure to follow this blog in the side bar of this page.

Thanks and see you next Monday! #mathbookmagic








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