Teaching Number Patterns and More

Can a picture book about the rainforest teach students about number patterns?

Author Kate Messner and illustrator Simona Mulazzani have crafted an enchanting book called Tree of Wonder:The Many Marvelous Lives of a Rainforest Tree.

Kids will love the rich descriptions that unfold in this nonfiction picture book about the Almendro Tree and the animals of the rain forest that make the tree their home. 

After reading the book for pure enjoyment, you can start a conversation.

Perhaps kids will notice the number pattern. In the beginning there is one tree, then 2 macaws, 4 toucans, 8 howler monkeys, 16 fruit bats, 32 Fer-De-Lance Vipers, 64 Agoutis, 128 Blue Morpho Butterflies, 256 Poison Dart Frogs, 512 Rusty Wandering Spiders,  and 1024 Leafcutter Ants. 

If the children seem curious and are ready to explore this number pattern you can provide simple guidance by being curious. When I read it, I notice the little shadow patterns that correspond with the number of animals on each page.  I usually point them out and ask: "What are these?"

If kids remain interested you can try modeling one-to-one correspondence using a yoga mat and a bag of beans. Even preschoolers can learn math concepts. Select beans that are large for the children's fingers to manipulate.  First say:

"I wonder how many types of plants and animals on in this book." (There is one kind of plant and 10 kinds of animals.)

Model or invite kids to place one bean for each kind of plant or animal at the bottom of the yoga mat.    

Then ask, " How many trees were in the book?"Demonstrate that on the far left of the yoga mat that one bean could represent one tree.

You can continue this one with each type of animal until the child losses interest. Just because they lose interest doesn't mean you can't try this activity on another day.  

I've seen some kids get so focused on using the beans that they stick with the activity to the point of running out of room on the right side of the yoga mat.  At that point another mat can be added until all the numbers are represented. Some homes and classrooms have base 10 bean sticks . These help with larger numbers. If you don't have them you could take time to make some and then come back to this project another day.  

It would be great to hear your experiences with this activity.  Also let me know of any other STEM related activities for this book. I will be dropping this book in a few weeks so stay in touch through twitter with #bookdropsforkids. 

The author responded to a request for insights on the book.  Here is what she wrote:

"The math in TREE OF WONDER, as you've most likely noticed, is a doubling of numbers pattern, which helps kids to see how quickly numbers grow when we multiply. I've heard from many teachers using the book in interdisciplinary science/math lessons, and you can read a blog post from one of those educators.  

Cup of Leadership is a blog that promotes the leadership process and an environment of conversation and books.  
Deanne Bryce is a writer for young children and an advocate for personal leadership at all ages. This post is part of  a project called Book Drops for Kids. The project promotes using picture books to inspire interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) thinking. 
At least once a month a picture book is purchased from an independent book store and “dropped” in a little free library to for someone to use.