Article

Grades 1-2: Read in Math Class

Use much-loved children’s books for real-world math activities with a cross-curricular twist.

By Bob Krech
  • Grades: 1–2

The Fraction Museum
Here’s a math project that can be used for learning, differentiation, and assessment: The Fraction Museum.

Students use manipulatives and art materials to create “exhibits” on their desks. The goal is to create appropriately labeled exhibits that demonstrate fractions. For example, a student might put out four red cubes and four white ones. On a small card they would label the exhibit “4⁄8,” including “1⁄2” if they know equivalent fractions.

The museum approach is a hands-on way for kids to “show what they know.” Watch me teach this lesson in a video you’ll find at scholastic.com/instructor.

Foot Count

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.A.1; 1.OA.C.5

What you need: Doggone Feet! by Leslie Helakoski, table, four chairs, paper, pencils
What to do: Read aloud Doggone Feet!, a picture book, told from a dog’s point of view, about the feet that keep appearing under a family’s kitchen table. Have a student sit at a table. Ask the class how many ­students there are. Ask how many feet there are. Have students chart these two numbers side by side. Then, add another student and ask the same questions. After adding one more student to the table, ask if students see a relationship between the number of students and the number of feet. Ask them to predict how many feet there would be for 10 students, or any other number of students. Finally, ask students how many feet there would be with one dog under the table. Two dogs? Three dogs? Try a mix of dogs and people. There are lots of ways to differentiate this simple but number-sense-building activity.


It Takes Just a Minute

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.1.MD.B.3

What you need: A Second, a Minute, a Week With Days in It: A Book About Time by Brian P. Cleary, analog or digital clock or timer, paper
What to do: Demonstrate to students how to do a jumping jack or similarly simple exercise and have them try a few. Now, ask students to predict or estimate how many jumping jacks they think they could do in one minute. Have them write this estimate down and then set your clock or timer and have students try to do as many jumping jacks as they can in one minute. Compare the results to their estimates. Repeat with a new one-minute activity (clapping hands, jumping rope), with students recording estimates and results. Now, try some two-second activities. These experiences help students build an understanding of how long a second or a minute ­actually is. Read aloud A Second, a Minute, a Week With Days in It for additional fun examples of what could be done in a second, a minute, a week, and more.


What’s My Shape?

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.1.G.A.1

What you need: Mice on Ice by Eleanor May, bag or box with assorted precut shapes or shape manipulatives
What to do: Read aloud the picture book Mice on Ice and list on the board all the shapes that students can remember from the story. Take your precut shapes or manipulatives and place these in a bag or a box. Have a student come up and close his or her eyes and reach into the bag. Ask the student to pick a shape and hold it but not remove it from the bag. Instead, they should describe the shape by its attributes (number of corners, number of sides, curves, length of sides) and ask the rest of the class to guess what shape they are holding. Only once someone guesses correctly can the shape be removed from the bag. As a follow-up, students can draw and cut out their own shapes to place in the bag. This will allow for differentiation as students choose and create more complex shapes than those depicted in the story.


You Can Count on Me

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.1.NBT.A.1

What you need: Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives by Lola M. Schaefer, large drawing pad, pencils, crayons, or colored pencils
What to do: Read aloud Lifetime and discuss how numbers are used to talk about different aspects of different animals. Next, give each student a large sheet of drawing paper and ask them to draw a full-length self-portrait. Then, ask your students to think about themselves in relation to numbers and to label their portraits with the numbers that relate to the various parts of their bodies. Do an example on the board. For instance, we have two eyes, two ears, 10 fingers, and 10 toes. How about teeth? Knuckles? Fingernails? Joints? Students may even want to estimate hard-to-count features like eyelashes or freckles. You can tell a lot about yourself with numbers!


What’s the (Subtraction) Story?

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.2.OA.A.1

What you need: Subtraction Action by Loreen Leedy, pencils, paper
What to do: Subtraction Action is a collection of short stories in which subtraction occurs as part of the story. Read a couple of these to the class. Then, ask students to write their own subtraction stories. These should be in the form of word problems that the rest of the class can try to solve. Brainstorm subtraction vocabulary and write these words on the board or include them on a word wall. To challenge students, ask them to write the story without using the word away, as in “She took five away.” This not only stretches students mathematically but also vocabulary-wise. When stories are done, students should write the answers on the back of their paper, showing their work. Extend by sharing a story problem (or two!) each day and letting
students solve.


The Best Class Flags Ever

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.D.10

What you need: The Best Vacation Ever by Stuart J. Murphy, paper, rulers, scissors, colored pencils
What to do: Read aloud The Best Vacation Ever and discuss how the family in the story was able to develop a questionnaire, collect and represent the data, and then reach a decision about where to go on vacation based on that data. Give each student supplies. Tell students they will be designing a class flag and their first task is to choose the colors. Display a sheet of chart paper. Students may “vote” for two colors by drawing two one-inch squares on their paper, coloring them with the colors they want, and then cutting them out. Students take turns placing their squares on the chart paper to form a class bar graph representing the color choices. Once the graph is complete, have students discuss the results. (Guide the conversation with questions like “Which color was most popular? Which color came in second? Third?”). Finally, have students use the top two color choices to create their own class flags. For a cross-curricular twist, incorporate ideas from social studies classes, geometric shapes you’ve studied, or other concepts into student designs.


Bob Krech is the elementary math supervisor for West Windsor–Plainsboro (NJ) Schools. He is a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching and has written many books for Scholastic on making math interesting, challenging, and fun for students and teachers.

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  • Subjects:
    Addition and Subtraction, Charts and Graphs, Counting and Numbers, Content Area Reading, Fractions and Decimals, Geometry, Logic and Problem Solving, Math through Literature, Number Sense, Patterns, Real-World Math, Time and Measurement, Educational Standards, Teacher Tips and Strategies
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