Games developed from Children’s Literature

It is easy to invent games based on children’s books. Some books have built-in math content, such as The Doorbell Rang, by Pat Hutchins. In this book, Pat describes the attempts of a group of children to equally divide Grandmother’s cookies as more and more children arrive.

Or a book might have a story line that sets the stage for a board game, such as Lunch, by Denise Fleming, which tells the story of a mouse that eats its way through many different foods during “lunch”. The circular path gae board developed by the authors, based on Lunch, depicts the foods the mouse eats.

Many times the flexibility of the story setting and plot allows for development of games to support specific math goals. For example, Counting Crocodiles, by Judy Sierra, is based on a Pacific Islands folktale about a monkey and a fox who live on the same island. Both animals want to get to another island where a banana tree grows. They convince the crocodiles that live between the two islands to line up, and be counted. This creates a path for the monkey and fox to get to the other island and back again. The plot includes counting and problem-solving, yet other math goals could be added to the game. (e.g.: players could order the crocodiles by size or make different shapes as they line them up)

Feast for 10 Book & CD (Read Along Book & CD) is about a family grocery shopping trip featuring family members adding items to the shopping cart in groups from one to ten. Preschoolers can play a manipulative game based on this book. Game pieces include include four shopping carts made from six-by-eight inch tag board. Each cart has a slot in the front. A piece of tag board on the back creates a packet, so children can inert laminated paper food items glued on tag board. A spinner indicates the number an dkinds of items to add to the cart. While reading the story, children twirl the spinner then add the appropriate type and number of food items to a cart. Another way to play is to use just the spinner to determine what to put in the cart.

This game improves children’s one-to-one correspondence and counting skills.

Have You Seen My Cat? by Eric Carle. In this book, a child travels the world asking various people from different countries if they have seen his cat. This long path game for preschool & school-aged children uses a board from an old commercial game covered with plain contact paper. At intervals along the path, there are loop-sided pieces of self-stick Velcro.

Hand-drawn and laminated paper cats (matching the cats in the book) have hook side pieces of Velcro on the back and are attached to the corresponding Velcro pieces on the game board. The spinner shows numbers from 3 to 10, and dots of corresponding amounts. Small rubber cats and baskets round out the game pieces.

Children play the game by using the spinner and moving game pieces accordingly. When children land their game pieces on spaces with cats, they collect a small rubber cat to put in their basket. At the end of the game, children count the number of rubber cats in their baskets. THey can also classify the cats using common traits such as colour, markings, or pose.

This game helps children with one-to-one correspondence, counting, classification, and matching. In addition, children can predict which cat they will come to first, second, or third as they re-tell the story while playing the game.

Toby Counts His Marbles (Toby) by Cyndy Szekeres talks about Toby searching his room to find his lost marbles. A long path game design is a perfect way for preschool and school-aged children to help Toby find and count all of his lost marbles. Children roll a die to determine the number of spaces to move their plastic Toby tokens along the path. They visit all the places where Toby looks for the book, children collect the appropriate numbr of laminated paper or real marbles at each site along the path. Children each have a little bag to keep their marbles in as they play.

At the end of the game, childen count how many marbles they have found. They may also sort and organize their marbles collections. As older children move along the path, they can use additional interaction cards that support problem solving or performing simple number operations. This game helps children in counting from 1 to 10 an classification.

Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Lois Ehlert is a counting book which invites children to swim like fish, “down the river and splash in the sea” to spot various groups of fish and counting their eyes. The book is extremely appropriate for teaching one-to-one correspondence because the eyes for the fish are cut-out holes on each page.


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