Counting Book Magic: 1-2-3 Peas

Counting is a fascinating process to watch unfold. Picture books are a great way to share counting with a child.  In the sharing process, the reader/co-reader (whether teacher or parent) is able to observe and reflect on how and whether a child participates in counting. We’ve already posted quite a few counting books on this site here). But there are so many more wonderful counting books out there to sift through. My plan in 2020 is to read at least 100 with Landon and to share any magical ones we find. Our counting book count for 2020 is currently 12.  Here is a post about the first magical one we found.

The Book

1-2-3 Peas is actually our second magical book involving peas (Here is the first shared by educators Lana Pavlova and Meredith Wilkes).  1-2-3 Peas is written and illustrated by Keith Baker and was published in 2012 by Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. 

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The repetitive, rhyming pattern of the text on each page, all written in three word lines with different verbs, provides a dynamic read.  

One pea searches–Look, look, look. Two peas fishing–hook, hook, hook. 

Baker’s simple text is balanced perfectly with his lively, layered illustrations.  Check out this spread with the Peatles and Pea-oyncé. 

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I would recommend this book for ages 3-6.

The Math

The text begins with 1 and has a page of each of the numbers 1-10 with the corresponding amount of peas to count. For 11-19, only the numerals are shown. And then moves on to counting by 10s starting at 20.  So the numbers 20, 30, 40,  all the way to 100 show up as spreads.

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Since 11-19 are missing illustrations, this could be an opportunity for interested children to make their own illustration for these numbers. I wasn’t concerned with skipping these numbers at all as I was reading this with a three year old.

Peas are scattered in lively scenes in and around the numerals for each number.  There are different groupings and different costumes on many of the peas.  For the child interested in verifying that there are in fact 10 or 50 or 60 or 100 peas on a page, these differences could be helpful in keeping track of a count.

The Magic

Recently a read a piece by Katherine Patterson (author of books like Bridge to Teribethia and The Great Gilly Hopkins) that I think about a lot when observing Landon’s counting.  Patterson is talking about how she supported her children in the process of learning to use language, however the same could be said for learning anything or in the case,  learning to count.

I read them poems and wonderful books, far before an edcuator, indeed before any sensible person would think they could be read to understand the words. But in the midst of this richness, when one of them would stand before me, the little cords straining in his new, as he sought to express the still inexpressible, I would wait with totally uncharacteristic patience, reasoning if they were to learn to speak freely and comfortable to me, I must be willing to listen. Nor would I correct their mistakes. It is rude, I thought, to correct the grammar of someone who is trying his best to tel you something, no matter how tall the person might happen to be…. They would learn quite soon enough, I reasoned, the difference between singular and plural form of a the verb. All they had to do was listen. [page 8-9, Gates of Excellence, Katherine Patterson]

Picture books provide an excellent opportunity to listen to children’s counting.   Here are  two magical things from our reading 1,2,3 peas.

  • BIG NUMBERS. Baker’s illustrations include HUGE numbers. I didn’t think much of this until I watched Landon tracing the shapes of numerals with his little finger. These giant numerals invited interaction.  On the page with the numeral 100, Landon said “O” as he traced. As he is making sense of letters and numbers, Os are zeros and zeros are Os. This surprised me in the moment (although not surprising I’m sure for those that work with young children). 1,2,3 Peas provided me a window into Landon’s navigation between the two worlds of numbers and letters.  Worlds were the shapes are quite similar. A “B” shape is really close to an “8” shape for example, and of course 0 and O are the same shape.
  • MAGICAL SCENES.  Baker’s whimsical pea illustrations weave in and around the the large numerals in varied ways. It was fun to watch Landon count out peas (on the early pages) and search out and share with me the “silly” peas he found on later pages.  Baker’s illustrations are layered and full of surprises. Here is one of Landon’s favorite spreads. The trench coat wearing critters were a bit hit. 

In addition to picture books, here are some great resources for supporting magical counting experiences for children (https://www.countingwithkids.com, Erikson Early Math (here is a recent counting article on the site) and the book Choral Counting & Counting Collections: Transforming the PreK-5 Math Classroom is a MUST have in my opinion for elementary teachers especially. 

Please share your favorite counting books (and why as well) in the comments!




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


  1. Thanks for sharing! We read the alphabet one by him but didn’t know there was a numbers one. We will have to check it out!

    We just read the grapes of math and highly recommend!!


    • Thanks for your comment!:) And thanks for sharing your recommendation. We’ll have to take another look at it now that my older children are older than when we originally read it, I’m curious what they think now. In the meantime, I’ll add it soon to our Shared Math book magic list on the site! Thanks!


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