Learning Math with Laura

Sometimes Ma let Laura and Mary go across the road and down the hill to see Mrs. Peterson….She was a Swede, and she let Laura and Mary look at the pretty things she had brought from Sweden….   Mrs. Peterson talked Swedish to them, and they talked English to her, and they understood each other perfectly.  She always gave them each a cookie when they left, and they nibbled the cookies very slowly while they walked home.  

Laura nibbled away exactly half of hers, and Mary nibbled exactly half of hers, and the other halves they saved for Baby Carrie.  Then when they got home, Carrie had two half-cookies, and that was a whole cookie.

This wasn’t right.  All they wanted to do was to divide the cookies fairly with Carrie….They didn’t know what do.  So each saved half, and gave it to Baby Carrie.  But they always felt that somehow that wasn’t quite fair. 
-Laura Ingalls Wilder in “Summertime” from Little House in the Big Woods

Can you believe Laura Ingalls Wilder  included a simple math lesson right there in her narrative? How convenient.  Imbedded in this brief text of a visit to a nearby neighbor, there is much more than a fraction riddle.  There is the lesson of sisterly selflessness, the lesson of developing relationships with those around us, the lesson of appreciating others and allowing them to be who they are regardless of differences.  All those will need to be explored internally or at a later time.  Now, we have to evenly divide those cookies.

G and I have just finished the first volume of Ms. Wilder’s series.  Honestly, he wasn’t thrilled about my read aloud choice until I told him there was a panther in it, and Pa cleans his rifle.  He was surprised, however, that he enjoyed listening to how Pa played the fiddle about Yankee Doodle and Ol’ Grimes, and how to make cheese and maple syrup.

After we read the above excerpt, I asked G if he could think of a way to break 2 cookies into 3 even pieces.  His immediate answer was to break it in lots of little pieces.   Hmmmm… Not a bad initial thought.  

The next day we decided to trace some circles and pretend they were Mrs. Peterson’s cookies.  G made them chocolate chip.

  
By cutting out two more circles and cutting them into halves I demonstrated how two halves is the same as one whole.  If you look carefully at Mary’s cookie in the picture you can see how G was dividing the cookie into little tiny triangular-like wedges.  Whew.  That would have been hard work for a walk home.  As he divided, he counted Mary- Laura-Carrie-Mary-Laura-Carrie-Mary-Laura-…Then he realized that was an ABC pattern.  Good for you, G.

The cookie on the right is my attempt at showing him how you could make one-third wedges out of cookies.

This all didn’t take very long, because he really needed to get back to more important things.  I mean, those pictures of Spider-Man defeating Doctor Octopus are not going to draw themselves.

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