Category Archives: PreK

Exploring fractions with “The doorbell rang” by Pat Hutchins

You may know the author Pat Hutchins and her books for young children, such as Rosie’s Thedoorbellrangwalk, Changes changes, Clocks and more Clocks, etc. I bought a few when my children Rosie and Tom were younger, and “The doorbell rang” was one of them. I had almost forgotten about them, until I recently heard Rosie, second grade, say:

“I recognize this book ! We read it in math today !”

So we read it again. The text is attractive as it includes predictable sentences that young children enjoys repeating out loud. And for older kids, the story opens the door to math. Ma made cookies for her two children, Sam and Victoria to share (equally). The doorbell rings, and two more children, Tom and Hannah come and share the cookies. As the doorbell keeps riging, more children come to share the cookies, until twelve children have to share the twelve cookies.

As I was reading the story, Rosie modeled it. She used flashcards to represent the cookies, similarly to what she has been doing with Time 4 Fractions.

  1. At the beginning of the story, Sam and Victoria gets 6 cookies each. How many cookies has Ma baked?
  2. Now that they have to share the 12 cookies among 6 children, how many cookies does each child get?

6 children sharing 12 cookies equally: each child gets 2 cookies

But a fun activity we added was to twist the story a little, and work not only with whole numbers, but also fraction. You may want to give it a try. I just let my child make sense of the problem, whether using paper to cut, or buttons to count, or the base Ten Blocks. Sometimes, she connects her model to symbols she has learned at school. But the goal is to let her make sense of the problem.

  1. What if Tom does not want any cookie, i.e. three children share the twelve cookies, how many cookies does each child get ?

  2. What if Peter does not want any cookie, i.e. five children share twelve cookies many cookies does each child get ?

  3. What if Tom, Peter and Victoria do not want any cookie i.e. nine children share twelve cookies many cookies does each child get ?


9 children sharing 12 cookies: each child gets 1 whole cookie, and 1/3 of a cookie (or equivalents)

I always look for opportunities for my children to have fun exploring problems, and make sense of them.  “The doorbell rang” sure is a neat book to create such opportunities.

Give it a try ! I am here if you have any questions !

Drawing math with ballons

Drawing math is a … drawing that I make to discuss math with my children. My oldest (7) likes to invent a word problem that matches the drawing, while my youngest (4) likes counting items ! 


You can discuss with your child about any math in the picture (e.g. counting, patterns). You can also ask your child to invent a word problem that would match the picture. Here are some examples!

  • Addition – There were 2 yellow ballons, 4 green ballons and 5 blue ballons. How many ballons were there all together? (2 + 4 + 5 = 11)
  • Subtraction – There were 21 ballons. 9 were sold. How many ballons were left for sale?  (21 – 9 = 12)
  • Multiplication – There were 3 children. Each child had 3 ballons. How many ballons did the  children have all together? (3 x 3=9)
  • Division – 3 children wanted to share equally  9 ballons. How many ballons would each child get ? (9 ÷ 3 = 3)

Until next time !

Drawing math at the circus

Another picture to strengthen your child’s math reasoning skills and creativity !

Invite your child to invent a word problem that matches the drawing.


If your child is not sure how to start, you may invite him/her to write a problem involving addition at first. Then, let him/her try with subtraction, multiplication and division !

Here are a few examples:

  • On the ring, there were 1 illusionist, 3 jugglers and 4 circus musicians. How many people were on the ring ? (1 + 3 + 4 = 8)
  • There were 15 circus musicians leaving the ring. 11 were already behind the curtain. Some were still on the ring. How many musicians were still on the ring ? (15 – 11 = 4)
  • There were 3 jugglers. Each juggler had 4 balls. How many balls did the jugglers have all together? ( 3 x 4 = 12)
  • There were 180 spectators. Two third of them had brown hair. How many spectators had brown hair? (180 x 2/3 = 120)
  • 3 jugglers want to share 12 balls so that each of them gets the same number of balls. How many balls would each juggler get? (12 ÷ 3 = 4)

Until next time !

Drawing math with penguins

Remember last week (here) ? Here comes our second picture ! Invite your child to invent a word problem that matches the drawing.


Here are a few examples:

  • There were 12 penguins on the ice,  4 penguins in the water, and 1 penguin jumping out of the water. How many penguins were there all together? (12 + 4 + 1 = 17)
  • There were 15 penguins on the ice. 3  jumped in the water. How many penguins were left on the ice? (15 – 3 = 12)
  • There were 4 penguins in the water. Each penguin ate 5 fish. How many fish did the  penguins eat all together? ( 4 x 5 = 20)
  • There were 16 eggs. There were 2 eggs under each penguin. How many penguins were seating on eggs ? (16 ÷ 2 = 8)

Until next time !

Drawing math

After our last journey, T4F, ended,  I quickly started missing the special time my daughter and I had on Friday nights when we explored the weekly problem together.

Over our Thanksgiving break, I decided to try something new.

I drew a quick picture, and asked my child to invent a word problem that matches the picture.



It worked so well, that I am going to keep drawing pictures (with much more details!), and share them with you.

A – It gives a chance to children to explore word problems though a different angle. At first, my daughter wrote something that was quite close to what she does at school. But then, as she was trying something more complicated, reading her problem so I could solve it helped her see what information she may have forgotten, what she had to add to her text to complete her problem. At one point, the whole family gave a try to inventing a problem.  Even my almost 4 year old son asked a math question related to the picture. Here are a few examples:

  • There were 5 fish. 2 were pink and some were purple. How many fish were purple?
  • There were 2 pink fish, 3 purple fish. There were also 2 brown fish behind the rock. How many fish were in the water all together?
  • How many pairs of socks will the octopus need to buy when the water gets cold?
  • How many fish do you see?

B – The children can explore different formats of word problems (I don’t think I would have thought about an octopus in need of socks !).

C – The children can pick the operation they feel comfortable with, as well as the numbers (the rock can be used as a hidden place to work with higher number!). They can also try to come up with a word problem that involves a specific operation.  Next time, I will draw much more details that could be used, but here are some examples from that picture.

  • Addition: There were 2 pink fish and 3 purple fish. How many fish were in the water all together? (2 + 3 = 5)
  • Subtraction: There were 14 fish next to the rock. 9 fish left. How many fish stayed next to the rock? (14 – 9 = 5)
  • Multiplication: There were 3 purple fish. Each fish blew 2 bubbles. How many bubbles did the  purple fish blow all together? (3 x 2 = 6)
  • Division: Rosie has 17 fish. She wants to give as many fish as she can to her 6 friends, with each friend getting the same number of fish. How many fish can she give to each friend  ? Will Rosie have some fish left? (2 fish / friend, Rosie has 5 fish left)

If your child is not sure how to start, you may want to invent a first problem and ask your child to invent another one. That should do the trick.  I am going to post a new picture every week, so we can practice all together.

Beginning of 2016, I will start another journey, that will include exploring word problems on all operations, but I think these pictures could be fun as a transition.

Until next time !

Exploring coins

My daughter has been expressing interest in learning more about coins. I thought I should share what we have been doing !IMG_4118

We started the exploration with the book Dollars and Cents for Harriet, from B and G Maestro. It is one of the books listed as highly recommended in The wonderful world of mathematics ( Thiessen, D., Matthias, M., & Smith, J. (1998), see here ). Indeed, I like how the concept of money is introduced through the story of Harriet, a young elephant who wants to buy herself a gift (suspense until the end of the book !). Through small jobs, she collects a variety of coins until she has enough to purchase her gift. My child loved the book, and have read it on her own several times since (on a side note, there are more Harriet concept books, including some on Time. I am going to check them out, as my child is studying this concept this year at school. Stay tuned…)

Then, we looked at the coins my daughter has been gathering around for years, and sorted them. We identified them in the book. We discussed the value by using the base Ten blocks (not familiar with the base Ten blocks? Click here). For the record, you can use paper clips or Legos®, as long as the child sees visually that different coins have different values, it should work as much.IMG_0617

After that, we played ! My child decided to sell tiles. How much for 5 pink tiles? How about this precious lonely brown tile? And so on.

And finally, we went on a field trip. And a hunt for items that would be less than $1. I must admit I was surprised, we found more items than I thought (made sense once I realized that many fruits were sold by the unit). 19 cents for a banana, 79 cents for an orange, 29 cents for a lime. We could not find a box of cereal for less than a dollar, but we did find a pretzel stick for 99 cents i.e. almost a dollar. We noticed that it was cheaper to buy a sweet onions than a red onions.IMG_0637IMG_0636

We ended up paying… with my credit card. That’s what you get, kiddo, when you have a mom who grew up with Francs, switched to Euros when she was 26, and switched again to Dollars when she moved to the U.S.  🙂

Hooked on Anno books

A few weeks ago, I wrote a quick post about my recent discovery of Anno books (here). Now that I have had a chance to look at several of them, I can definitely claim, loudly and clearly, how instructive and entertaining they are.

Anno’s Counting Bookthumb_IMG_0370_1024

The book starts with an empty landscape, with the numeral 0. The next page, numeral 1, includes a house, a cloud, a bridge. One child, one grown-up. On the next page, a second house can be seen, two trucks. And so one until the page with the numeral 12.

I have always enjoyed counting book, but I would put this one on the top of my list.

  • The drawings are quite appealing to me, and to my children.
  • Page after page, you can see the landscape changing with the seasons, filling up with all kind of items, full of little details that my kids love exploring.
  • There is a neat connection, on the left, to the counting blocks children use at School (e.g. 3 blocks on the left, the drawing in the middle, and the numeral 3 on the right).thumb_IMG_0381_1024
  • Similar items are not always all together, providing support to discuss not only counting, but also adding. For instance, on page “4”, there are 3 birds on one corner, and one more on another corner. My son Tom, 3, would count them one by one, while Rosie, 6, would see it as  adding 3 to 1.

I just wish I have found this book a few years ago, when I started reading books to Rosie or when I was teaching PK and K. A must have for young kids, in my opinion !

Ann’s Math Games and Anno’s Math Games II

These two books include a series of activities to strengthen mathematical skills.


Ann’s Math Games relates to comparing, adding/subtracting, ordering, and measuring. Ann’s Math Games II goes further, deeper. I found the chapter on Counting with circles quite interesting, showing that a group of children to be counted, can be represented from a complete drawing with all details, to something simpler, to a circle. A helpful transition to modeling and symbolics, that Rosie would have benefited from a few months ago (see here, first and second bullet point).


“Parents, Teachers and Other Older Readers” can also find additional information about the math concepts presented in the book at the end of each book.

Anno’s Magic Seeds and Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar

These stories relate to more advanced concepts (multiplication and factorials). However, I like to give opportunities to my kids to informally explore math concepts on their own before learning them at School. Anno’s Magic Seeds is a fun way to do so with multiplication. I just need to remember to come back to it when Rosie is in 2nd grade !


To sum up: Anno books, I am hooked !