Book lesson: The Math Curse

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Essential Questions for students (objectives):  How can you look at life through the lens of mathematics?
Supplies: Math Curse by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith, KIQ handout, post-its or journal, computer access, research rubric
Instructional format:  Whole group discussion & small group or center work

Time needed: 20 minutes – 60 minutes
Vocabulary for Word Wall:  (the vocabulary in this book is very rich and abundant, so it may use the words you already have on your word wall OR the new words can be developed on the KIQ handout)

Description of Lesson:

Possible whole group lessons –

1) Teacher reads Math Curse from start to finish at the beginning of the school year as an introduction to the class.  The question that is posed before the reading, “How many of the problems discussed in the book do you already know how to solve?”  After the reading, have students share which problems they feel confident solving and which were totally foreign (they can put them on post-its or in a journal).  Remind them that is what will happen throughout the year (they will know some things and not other) and that you are putting a math curse on them so that they become problem-solvers and see math everywhere!   At the very end of the year, read the book again.  How many of the problems can they solve now?  What activities did you do throughout the year that are mirrored in the book?

2) Handout the KIQ handout.  Tell students that when you read the book to them, that they are to fill out the columns as they are listening (what I already know, what I’m interested in finding out more about, what questions do I have about what I hear).  They need to pay attention to vocabulary, including names, in order to respond on the handout.  After the reading, have students share in partners what they put in the I and Q column.  Then, they should rank the top 3 things that they are interested in finding out more about.  Students can either work alone or in pairs if they have similar interests.  Students can research their top question focusing on the following:

a. What is this unknown math concept and how would you explain it to others?

b. How does this math concept tie into math we are doing in our class or in a previous math class?

c. What additional questions does this math concept generate for you?

Students present their findings/concept to the class either in small groups or as a full class presentation (on posters or through rotations).  Read the book again with the new knowledge of the unknown concepts and have students look for what they notice with more background information.

Small group/centers lesson –

1) Teacher reads the Math Curse to the whole class.  At a center or in a small group (with multiple copies of the book), students pick one page layout (2 pages side by side) and look up every unknown concept on the page and summarize/explain it.  They analyze the picture and the mathematics involved – how does it relate to the text on that page?  Then, students explain how the page relates to the math they have learned so far in class.  When picking pages, they can also use the front and back cover and the inside covers and book sleeve (there is a lot of math there too). 

2) Teacher reads the Math Curse to the whole class.  Students create a 2 page layout (side by side) that could have been added to the book, including an illustration, that uses the current math learned in class.  Make sure that the new pages fit the book and could be dropped anywhere in the story!

Technology Extension:  Students can create their Math Curse page on a computer and save it as a PDF.  These PDFs can be entered into a digital flip book ( and then be projected for the whole class to solve or used in a center for students to work on.  

Interdisciplinary connections –

1) How-to (procedural writing) writing.  Using the page about cereal for breakfast, have students practice how-to writing with any procedure (making a PB & J or brushing their teeth) and then with regards to a math problem.

2) Art connections – have students examine art from Kandinsky or Piet Mondrian and see how they could incorporate the illustration into a page and then write up the mathematics as part of the story.

3) Other discipline connections:  There are a few pages in the book that create problems from ELA, Phys.Ed, & Art.  Students can create their own math problem from any other discipline that they are currently learning about, turning all subjects into math problems.
Assessment (Acceptable Evidence):  Math Curse Research Rubric for a question students research and present to the class.  If students create their own page, they can have another student solve the problem on the page.

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