Play with your Math with Little Pea

I am thrilled to introduce our next guest post. Last year, I came across an image posted by educator Lana Pavlova of some shoe arrays her students constructed after reading the book Amanda Bean’s Amazing Dream by Cindy Neuschwander. I immediately messaged Lana in the hopes she’d share some of her math book magic with us in the future.

And the future is now! The post below was written by Lana and her colleague Meredith Wilkes. Lana is  currently a math coach with K-6 students and teachers, and Meredith is a kindergarten teacher. Both live in Calgary.   Their post is an excellent example of two amazing, creative teachers taking a delightful picture book and examining the situations in the book through a mathematical lens. Thanks to both of them for sharing their math book magic with us.  Watch out for flying peas!


Where do we expect our children to encounter math? Maybe when they have math lessons at school. Or play games that involve numbers. Or when they solve puzzle, or read magical math books. But there is so much math happening in their lives that is surprising and unexpected, that can be found on the pages of the books not written to teach math. We wanted to share how one of the wonderful non-mathy books helped our students to find math in unexpected places.

The Book

Little Pea is written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace. It’s funny and delightful in a way that will make both children and adults smile. Little Pea lives with his Pea family Papa Pea and Mama Pea. He loves when his Mama tells him about her pea childhood, loves when his Papa flings him high into the air off the spoon, and he HATES candy which he has to eat for dinner every night to grow up big strong pea. And if he doesn’t finish his candy, he cannot have desert. Spinach dessert!

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The Math

This book might not have been written with the math lessons in mind, but just as natural children’s curiosity can lead them to mathematical explorations, this book can provoke some. After reading the book with our kindergarten students a couple of times, we showed them…spoons. And this is where magic really started to happen. There are measurement lessons hidden in this book.

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The Magic

Imagine a classroom of kindergarten children who are conducting an experiment to discover how far they can fling their little peas off their spoons. And then looking for the ways to measure, compare and communicate their discoveries.

We didn’t go straight for mathematics, we talked and wondered about the Little Pea family first. The book created a world in which we could play with math. When the students saw the spoons, they were excited to try and make the Little Pea fly. We didn’t really have many peas in our classroom, so students suggested the pompoms would work as well.

And then we waited for the math to come up during their explorations. “My pea went so far!” This was the perfect time to wonder how far it went. We had to do some measuring. Students selected the tools to use and got to work. We did not direct them to the particular tools or strategies, but students have encountered some measuring challenges that were a great starter for this conversation.



Some students used a variety of objects to measure the path. But how can it help us to describe how far our Little Pea flew? It is five…. five what? Some students also built a meandering path from their measuring objects. Did our Little Pea fly left and right, and left and right before landing or did it go straight? We had to conduct the experiment again. Students continued to develop important ideas about measurement that came up naturally in this exploration like the need to use the consistent units.



And then we wanted to document what happened to our Little Pea. How can we use pictures, words and diagrams to show how far Little Pea go and how we measured it? Communicating their mathematical reasoning on paper might seem like a challenge for the students who have not learned how to write yet. But young children can use pictorial representation to communicate with admirable precision.



The Little Pea book prompted a long mathematical exploration of measurement, where students had the opportunity not only to discover some ways to measure with non-standard units, but also practiced counting, and making strategic decisions, and communicating their ideas. They have learned new words and new skills. They have also learned that math magic can live in our favorite books, we just need help each other to find it.

Lana Pavlova and Meredith Wilkes


Thanks Lana and Meredith for letting us peak in on your kindergarteners students as the use non-standard units to measure. Using non-standard units is a great way to get students thinking deeply about the process of measurement. For those interested on thinking more about this idea, here is a video from of Secondary students using non-standard units.  Something I noticed in watching this video, play in secondary math class is as important as it is in kindergarten.


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 month, be sure to follow this blog in the side bar of this page.

Thanks and see you soon!  Touch #mathbookmagic, pass it on.


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