One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab

This week’s magical math book post comes to us from Simon Gregg, a primary teacher at the International School of Toulouse in France. Simon is currently teaching K3, which is U.S. kindergarten equivalent.

I’ve been following Simon Gregg on Twitter (@Simon_Gregg) for some time and am always excited and intrigued when his tweets appear in my feed. Whether he’s sharing a lovely mathematical lesson idea, an insightful reflection on learning or teaching, a curious, creative mathematical prompt, or a captivating image of something one of his students created, I leave inspired by his work and hopeful more children are having similar mathematical experiences in their classrooms.  I am learning a lot from him and if you’re on Twitter, I highly recommend looking him up!

It was on Twitter that I first heard about him using this week’s magical math book. I asked if he would be willing to write a guest post, and he graciously agreed. His magical post arrived the day my family was leaving for our first trip to the magical land of Disney.  As if I wasn’t already on cloud nine, I was jumping for joy that my dream of having this blog be a place where math book magic is shared was coming true once again.

Here is the math book magic that Simon shared.

The Book

One Is a Snail, Ten is a Crab: A Counting by Feet Book is written by husband-and-wife team April Pulley Sayre and Jeff Sayre, illustrated by Randy Cecil, and published by Candlewick Press. Its summery beach scenes and bug-eyed cast of anthropomorphic seaside creatures bring light and humor to the counting book.

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The Math

It’s a book of two halves, the first half showing the numbers from one to ten, and the second half dealing with the multiples of ten up to one hundred. It doesn’t just work as a counting book; it shows that numbers can be composed differently. Here for instance we see fifty as both five crabs enjoying a picnic and as ten dogs sunbathing on stripy towels.

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It would make a great introduction to numbers bigger than ten, but also presents that essential idea that the same number can be composed in different ways. We also meet the idea of multiplication. All this, and that the beach scenes are varied and interesting, mean that the book is perfect from Pre-K to Grade 2 or 3, especially if the mathematical ideas in it are developed.

In our Kindergarten classes, we read just the first part of the book to begin with, where the numbers from one to ten are featured. After reading it aloud, we gave the students small copies of the animals that we met in the book and asked them to make ten in different ways.

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Next, we tried it with Cuisenaire rods, a much-used manipulative in our classes. Limiting the choice to just the rods representing the animals in the book (with the white rod being 1, the snail), we made the numbers up to ten and beyond, each pair of children finding different ways to compose the numbers.


The classes were really keen to read the next part of the book!

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We had spent time looking at numbers up to one hundred, and our hundredth day was approaching, so this was the ideal time to look at one hundred, for the moment with the limitation that we’d think about the animals in this book. We have squares that fit a hundred little white rods (the snails). Students filled them with animal-rods in whichever way they chose. Most of their hundreds had interesting symmetry or pattern to them.

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They added some writing too:

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Check out this equation, talk about #mathart #unitchat . Spoiler: It represents 5 spiders +10 snails+5 crabs. 


The Magic

The magic here is that the positive feeling the book gives the students carries over into our inquiries about how to make up the different numbers in other ways, even when we move away from the animals to representing them, with Cuisenaire rods or written equations. Seeing different ways of representing numbers is an important part of our learning, but the book allowed us to visit this again without it seeming like ‘more of the same’: we were not dealing with raw numbers, but with feet on sand. And some of the sun-sea-and-sand feeling kept shining through.


Simon, what a gift it is to peek into your classroom! The magical books below are being donated by to Chicagoland area classrooms as a thank you to Simon for inspiring us to continue to work hard to create experiences in the classroom and home where students are free and inspired to share their magical mathematical thinking and creativity with others.

img_9714.jpgStayed tuned in two weeks when we will talking about the other counting book pictured above.

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 every other Monday, be sure to follow this blog in the side bar of this page.

Thanks and see you in two weeks!  #mathbookmagic

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