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NumberFix: Math/Writing Lesson inspired by "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"

A Writing Across the Curriculum Lesson from NumberFix
Math Topic: number sense Students Write: a creative story about a number's life

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writing about numbers and their properties

This writing across the curriculum lesson was written by NumberFix Coordinator, Holly Young and Nevada second grade teacher, Nancy Jeppson, who designed it for second grade learners. Check out Holly's Making Mathematicians website.

This lesson was proposed to NumberFix using this template. If you have a math/mentor text lesson you'd like to have published, fill out the template and send it to Holly Young, our NumberFix Coordinator: We'll send you an NNWP Print Publication if we post your lesson here!

Lesson Overview & Objective:

This lesson borrows some fantastic personification tricks from the heroine of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to put a person at ease with numbers. Students will explore a number looking for its mathematical and real-world traits, then compose a story practicing voice by giving the number personality.

Students will explore numbers and their properties in order to build true number sense. Students will explore personification in writing a math story.

Writing skills to stress while teaching this lesson:

  • Idea Development (Writing with a clear, central idea or theme in mind; putting researched ideas into one’s own words)

  • Voice (Conveying passion towards the message of the writing or the topic; thinking about and making decisions to acknowledge the intended audience)

Materials List:

Holly's Step-by-Step Teacher Instructions:

  • I asked students if they had a favorite number and why? We had a quick discussion on why people seem to like some numbers and not others.
  • I read a section of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn about 1/3 of the way through the book where Frannie describes how she likes math and how she gives each number a personality. Since this text is very high level (and this is the only part that I would share with second graders), I put the text from the book on a powerpoint and showed it to the students as I read it through one time. Before I read it a second time, I asked the students to notice what characteristics or personality the author gave each number and whether or not they would agree with the characteristic chosen. I went through the powerpoint a second time.

  • After the second reading, the students and I had a class discussion on numbers. We talked about how the author made them seem more interesting and whether or not we agreed with her assessment of the numbers. We also discussed what interesting mathematical or real-world properties numbers contain. I used a book called Numbers: Facts, Figures, and Fiction. I read the section on the number 3, 5, 8, and then I asked for suggestions on numbers and we read those sections as well, marveling at the properties of each number.
  • I gave each student a Facts about my Number graphic organizer. I had a version of a large one up in front of the room to use as a model. I walked around the room and gave each student their own number that they would be exploring. I used the numbers 5, 12, and 15 and wrote it in the banner at the top of the organizer.
  • I went through each box on the graphic organizer using the number 8 as my model and having the class help me brainstorm what to put on my paper. Then they went and filled in their own graphic organizer on their number. We did one box at a time, which worked really well.
  • After we were done with all the boxes, I discussed what happens when you add 0 at the end of a number. We had a big talk about the difference between adding zero or putting a zero at the end which causes the number to get larger by a factor of 10.
  • After our zero discussion, I modeled writing a short story using the number 8 and really working on using the ideas from my graphic organizer to give my number voice.
  • Students wrote their own stories as a rough draft on the graphic organizer sheet. Here is Jerussia's graphic organizer and rough draft; her final draft is one of the samples below.
  • After students read their stories to one another and received feedback, they typed their stories on computers and worked on editing their pieces for spelling and basic grammar.
  • Students read their number stories in author’s chair.

Student Samples:

by Carter, second grade writer

Number fifteen is a mean number. It is not an even number. It is an odd number.

Hi, I am number 15, and I am a mean number! You can make me by using a $10.00 bill and a $5.00 bill. You can see me at the bank.

I don’t want to be mean anymore because that’s bad. I will be nice from now on. I will be friends with even numbers.

Please come visit me at the bank!

Give me Five

by Anthony, second grader

I am the number 5. I am an odd number. I am not even. I live on a clock. I am on a $5.00 bill.

I am a happy number because everyone always says, “Give me a high 5!”

Happily Ever After
by Hannah, second grade writer

Once upon a time there were two numbers, 5 and 10. (You can see 5 in the sea as a starfish, by the way!) 5 and 10 were best friends because 5 makes 10 when you double 5.

One day, 10 met 15, and 15 invited 10 over to dinner. 15 did not invite 5 over for dinner because 15 only liked even numbers. 5 was sad about this!

15 decided not to be mean to 5 and to like both odd and even numbers. 15 invited 5 over for dinner, too, because 15 realized that 5 helps make 15 by making a triple of 5!

5, 10, and 15 lived happily ever after on the number grid together!

Chapter 1 of 12
by Carson, second grade writer

I started off as 12, but then I got a little greedy…..Okay, I got
very greedy. If you’re wondering, this started off when I met
zero. Anyhoo, so zero made me 120! Is that awesome or
what? I asked zero if he could get me another zero, but get
this, he did not what to unless I went with him! I got angry with him and said, “You go or else.”

“Or else what….A piece of cake? I would like a piece of
cake!” said zero.

“No, weirdo! Or else you aren’t going to be my zero anymore, because I want to be 1,200. Do you get what I am saying?!” I yelled.

Zero said no, so I kicked him out and found myself a better zero. He got me another zero until I was 12,000 and I had three friends, but I was not satisfied.

Life of 6
by Jerussia, second grade writer

Hi, I am 6. Life is hard because I am an even number, and I begin with a 5. I am sad because I lost my 2 best twin friends number 3. They used to add up to my number because 3+3=6. I lost them because we got in a fight. We were fighting about being odd and even numbers. They thought they were better than me because they are odd and I am even.

One day, I met zero. When you put us together we make 60. It is a lot easier to be friends with zero because zero is an even number like me. I like having zero with me every day. Life is not hard anymore. I love my new life because zero and I live together on the clock because there are 60 minutes in an hour!

Growing Old
by Connor, second grade writer

I’m 15. I’m nice. 0 came to me, and I became 150 by putting 0 in the one's place. I’m angry! I’m sad! I don’t want to be old. I don’t want to be 150! 0 knew I didn’t want to be 150, so he left me and found a new friend named number 6.

I’m about to come back alive because 15 is nice and young! I see 15 at the store when the store says things are 15% off. There are 15 dollars in the bank, and my dog is 15 in people years.

My brother is 16 years old, and that is one less than 16. I want to be 15 for the rest of my life!



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