Math Literature: Lucky Beans
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I always enjoy a great picture book, but when it connects math concepts, I'm especially intrigued. It's always a special bonus when you choose a book and are pleasantly surprised that it included math concepts. That's exactly what happened when we checked out Lucky Beans from Becky Birtha from our local library.
Lucky Beans takes place during the Great Depression and tells the story of the Loman family. While struggling to make ends meet, Marshall's family eats a lot of beans for dinner. One day, this leads to an amazing connection when Marshall sees a contest to win a new sewing machine for estimating the correct number of beans in a jar.
This book has so many great math concepts. First, there's the idea of estimation and what a good estimate would be. We don't just guess, but we use the resources around us. We can use clues and related information to help us come up with a reasonable estimate.
If you are looking for some fun estimation activities, check out these Esti-Mysteries by Steve Wyborney. These absolutely free resources are awesome activities to challenge students to use problem solving and number sense strategies.
Marshall and his family make an educated estimation by using what he knows about capacity. They measure beans in a similar sized container but find they don't have enough. Instead, Marshall remembers standard units of capacity and is able to generate a pretty accurate estimation.
He works with his family using measuring tools from when his mother was baking to see how many beans would actually fit in the container. Such a great reminder how playing and exploring with measurement tools can benefit our students! Whether you have a cooking class in your school, use a small swimming pool and measurement containers in your classroom (totally did this during my career) or invite your students to cook at home with you, our students will remember those experiences with hands-on practice much better than building a Gallon Man or doing loads of worksheets!
In fact, after reading Lucky Beans, my students asked to see the measuring cups again so they could determine just how many beans were in the container. I'm sensing we might be repeating this task in a week or two!
Be sure to check out Lucky Beans and see how this awesome story can teach your students some history while engaging in mathematics! Comment and let me know what you think!
Looking for more literature connections? Be sure to check out these posts and snag some free activities to do with them as well:
10 For Dinner (decomposing and composing numbers to 10)
The Doorbell Rang (understanding of division)
Greg Tang Series (variety of topics)
The Greedy Triangle (shapes and geometry)