One of our read aloud stories this week was The Lion’s Share – A Tale of Halving Cake and Eating it, too written and illustrated by Matthew McElligott
A little ant is invited to a special dinner hosted by lion and she wants to make a great impression. She is appalled by the manners and behaviour of the other guests who all arrived late and ate their way sloppily through the meal. After dinner, lion brings out a large iced cake and tells his guests to help themselves.
Students were suspicious. “He is just going to fatten them up and then he’ll eat them all,” suggested Jeremiah. Ricky agreed but added, “He will need a pack to bring down that elephant!”
The animals each took half of the cake and passed it on. The pieces became smaller and smaller (1/2 became 1/4 then 1/8 etc.) until the ant received her piece and crumbled it while attempting to slice the tiny sliver into two. The animals all appeared offended, accusing the ant of not sharing. The ant, wanting to make up for her supposed transgression, offered to bake a special cake for the lion. Well . . . none of the other animals wanted to be outdone by the ant and begin to promise cakes as well – each offering to bake twice as many as the last offer.
“Wow! This is like math!” exclaimed Jenny as students began doubling the numbers to predict what the next offer would be. After each animal had made his or her offer, we added all of the promised cakes together using a variety of addition strategies. 511 cakes! (1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 + 32 + 64 + 128 + 256)
“Why was each animal promising to bake twice as many?” someone asked. (It’s great when students get to use math vocabulary in a meaningful context as it is often the language and not the operations which throw them with word problems)
Students answered. “To show off.” “To beat the others.” “They are competing.”
“But the ant was just calm.” said Scott.
“The rest rushed it and the ant’s cake was the best.” observed Kevin.
“The ant wanted to make it special but the rest were competing.” Jena agreed. We had a great conversation about quality vs. quantity.
Then the math thinking just began to flow. Alyson noted, “511 cakes would take more than a year to eat if you ate one cake a day.”
“But less than 2 years,” said Ricky. “Because if you double 365 and you get 300 and 300 – that’s 600 so you already know it is more than 511.”
A lovely read aloud that led to some spontaneous math thinking. Fractions. Doubling. Addition. And some pointers on table manners! What could be better?