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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  1. says

    Pretty cool ways to help children See, Say, and Do math in literature! We have similar questions for books used in our Math in Literature series and encourage families to create one of their own as well for their selection. I

  2. says

    Hi Bon. Math in Literature is the name of one if our Family Math Affairs program. We view several books. Sir Cumference series, Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese, Engineering the ABCs by Patty OBrien Novak, and Math Curse by Jon Scieszka are among family favs. We have a few more on the resources/stories and books page. Would love to learn about even more.


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