Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kid Math: Bean Thirteen

Bean Thirteen by Matthew McElligott was in the library under the math section.  My son and I were searching for interesting books that were also educational.  This book jumped off the shelf with it's interesting cover and did not disappoint.  We knew nothing about it and it was a well written and interesting book.

In the book, Ralph and Flora went out to pick beans for dinner.  After getting twelve beans, Flora decides to pick one more.  Ralph told her not to do it because it would make "unlucky" thirteen.  When they got home, they separated the beans into two piles and there was one left over.  Ralph said that it was leftover because it was unlucky.  Flora decided to invite a friend for dinner.  Then, they made three piles but there was still one bean left over!  They decided to invite another friend and make four piles but there was still one bean leftover.  They invited another friend and made five piles but the problem got worse because there were three beans left over.  They added another friend and changed the piles again when the door bell rang.  Ralph got very upset and bumped the table.  The beans went flying every where.  Ralph picked up the beans in a bowl while Flora greeted the friends at the door.  All of the bugs sat down to eat and took what they wanted to eat.  It worked out perfectly and all the beans were eaten.  But then Ralph realized that someone ate bean thirteen.  But who??

My son thought the book was really funny and really liked the math.  The beans are on the page so you can practice counting and see how all of the beans that the bugs take add up to thirteen.  It is amusing that there is one left over and that Ralph and Flora can't figure out how to solve the problem.  The numbers were fun to play with and then we decided that we needed to do a fun activity.

We decided to do our own bean activities.  I looked on the internet and found this fun activity to recreate what the bugs did in the story.  I made up a sheet where you divide up 18 beans just like her sheet but with a little more space in between because my son still writes his numbers pretty large and I had a whole 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper to fill.

  I pulled out some small paper plates and these little glass beads that I had in my craft supply box.  You can do this with paper circles and rocks (or even beans but they are a little small for small hands) from the yard so use what you have!  

My son took the glass beads and separated them on to the plates.  Starting with two plates (just like in the book) and working his way up to nine plates.  At first, he had trouble understanding that he should put one bean on each plate and tried to put the number he thought should go there.  By the time he was working with five plates, he figured it out!  

At the end of each round, the best part was that he got to practice his number writing on the results of the round.  He was thrilled to fill in the spaces with the answers when he would have been miserable practicing the same numbers without such a fun activity.  Do you have a little one that needs to practice number writing?  This is the great way to practice writing in addition to the joy of counting!

When get got through with one round on the plates, we counted how many beans were left to see if they were more or less then the number of plates that we had out.  It was another good lesson because greater then and less then is harder to understand but with the "beans" in their hands, it is much more concrete.

We took a break to read the book again and then he went back to playing to pretend to be a bug.  He got out the entire container of glass beads and asked for more plates.  I was trying to fix dinner at the time but I told him to work with the new beans and figure it out with the same plates.  He played with them all the way through until dinnertime!!!  What a great activity!  

I suggest making multiple sheets with different numbers and seeing how they like to play and count.  Making the sheets ahead of time would be key but I wasn't prepared for the excitement over the project.  Plus I was caught preparing the project when we had to start and I was still working on the papers while he was at the table trying to start.  I can't get anything over on him.  I hope that you enjoy this great book and fun activities.


  1. This does sound like a great book playing on the properties of number 13. Thanks for sharing with Afterschool!

  2. Great math lesson! Thanks so much for sharing at After School!

    1. We loved it!! I hope that you do yoo :)


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