FIAR: Make a Map of Your Town with Katy and the Big Snow

This post is part of our monthly series highlighting books and activities from the Five In A Row (FIAR) curriculum.

This month’s FIAR feature is Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. Katy is a big red crawler tractor and any child with an interest in trucks is going to love this book. The illustrations are wonderful – there’s so much to see on every page. One page is outlined with smaller pictures of more than 20 different kinds of trucks! You could read this book time and time again and still finding something new.

With all that going on, there are a lot of activities you could choose to complement this book. You could discuss seasons and all the jobs that trucks (and people!) do each season. You could talk about community services and all the people needed to run a city.  You could talk about weather and snow. You could talk about art and charcoal drawing. You could talk about the literary device of personifying Katy the tractor.

But I love maps, so the activity I want to highlight today is map reading. There’s a simple map of the town of Geoppolis on pages 6-7 of the book. Spend some time on this map, pointing out the compass. If you have a compass at home, take it outside and have your child move around your house to determine what direction your house is facing. It’s even more fun to bring the compass along for a car ride around town.  It’s fascinating to see what direction you are headed in – you will sometimes be surprised!

Katy and the Big Snow

Take some time going through the numbered flags on the map of Geoppolis. Ask your child to find all the city buildings and also point out where there might be houses, farms, and railroads. Finally, have your child create a map of your own city or neighborhood. This is also a great time to get out an atlas or any other maps you have around the house and introduce your child to road maps, legend,s and more.  I recommend the National Geographic Beginners World Atlas — a must-have for any homeschool library.

Shannon Entin at The Homeschool Post

Shannon Entin (20 Posts)

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FIAR: Snowy Evening Math Photos

This post is part of our monthly series highlighting books and activities from the Five In A Row (FIAR) curriculum.

Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is a curious poem – challenging for grownups and particularly interesting for kids.

I’m keen on looking for math in our FIAR books, but this time I’m thinking about doing some math in a new way. There’s math in poetry – tons of patterns with the iambic pentameter and such. But this picture book took a short poem (it’s only 16 lines) and added illustrations to give it that extra touch.

Illustrations… hmm…

There’s a classroom teacher who created a math assignment around photography. What a cool project for homeschool families; you can make it as strict or as loose as you want.

He blogged all about the process, including the challenges and results,which makes modifying it for homeschool super easy and fun!

Snowy Evening Math Photos

If you have snow around, use the beautiful images in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening to inspire a photo field trip in the neighborhood. Use the assignment and rubric from the above links or just go with the flow. Encourage your children to look at the world with math eyes!

I live in Houston, where it snows once every nine years. So I had to depend on Flickr for these examples.

Abstract, curious, math-y!

There’s some fun math in the angle of the snow, and also in the shadow in this pictures. It makes me wonder if the camera is tilted or if the snow is on a hill. Click on the image to get some math thoughts from the photographer.

nail in snow

by windiepink | | CC BY

Mr. Rene’ Descartes would love this one!

Lots of snow, but also some coordinate plane stuff here:

by Jan Tik | | CC BY

by Jan Tik | | CC BY

Blocks and smiley faces!

These look like snow covered blocks – big ones! Fancy math term: rectangular parallelepiped. (Get your two year old to say that – it’s SO cute!)

by plizzba | | CC BY

by plizzba | | CC BY

Graphing animal tracks is fun!

You know how you put a bunch of dots on a grid and then connect them? That’s graphing in math. That’s what these animal tracks look like! Incidentally, this photo is from my favorite Flickr person who has a great collection of math photos!

by woodleywonderworks | | CC BY

by woodleywonderworks | | CC BY

What do your photos look like?

What kinds of math do your kids see in the snow or other weather you might have? Share the links and their thoughts in the comments!

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FIAR: Teaching Math with a Picture Book – Ferdinand

This post is part of our monthly series highlighting books and activities from the Five In A Row (FIAR) curriculum.

The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf,  is a tale of mistaken identity: Ferdinand is a sweet bull who loves to smell flowers and has no interest in anything remotely violent. He is selected to be part of the Madrid Bullfights due to an unfortunate event with a bee.

I’ve enjoyed this book since I was very young. The nifty thing is the breadth of teaching opportunities Ferdinand gives us. There’s even math in it!

To integrate math in this wonderful tale, try using some of these questions when you read the story:


Where is Spain? Where do we live? How far away is Spain from us?


Look at the page where it shows how tall Ferdinand is. How many marks are there on the tree stump? How long was the time between each of the measurements? Is that equal?  Would there be a better amount of time between each mark?

Suppose the marks for Ferdinand’s height were at 6 months, 1 year, 1.5 years and 2 years. Approximately where on the stump would those be?


Five men came to to pick the “biggest, fastest, roughest bull.” Why do you think there were five?

How many Banderilleros are there? How many Picadores?

Page Numbers

Most books have page numbers. Ferdinand doesn’t. Why do you think that is? How many pages is Ferdinand? Could the book be written in fewer pages? How would that be done?

What’s next?

You can use the book Ferdinand and these math stimulators in your Five in a Row math day or integrate it into any other math curriculum. Or do it just for fun! Also try doing math with other picture books you have.

Oh – and don’t forget to share how it went in the comments!

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