Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Poetry Stretch - By the Numbers

Summer school starts today! I will once again be teaching preservice teachers HOW to teach math. While elementary math is certainly composed of more than this, numbers and number sense are a huge part of what is taught. I generally open this class by sharing some mathematically-inclined poems, including Sandburg's "Arithmetic" (I actually show a video ), Numbers by Mary Cornish, "Take a Number" by Mary O'Neill, and this little gem by Patricia Hubbell.
by Patricia Hubbell

Pi r squared is forty-two,
Diameter is three,
Two and two add up to four,
(Do you love me?)
X and Y equations,
Add the number two,
Twelve and twelve are twenty-four,
(I love you.)

Poem ©Pat Hubbell . All rights reserved.
As you can see, I've been thinking a lot about math lately and think it's high time we write about it. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.


  1. The thought of writing a poem about math gives me the hives. . .but I know my friend, Ann Whitford Paul's books, Seasons Sewn, and Eight Hands Round, have been used extensively in schools to teach math.

    By Steven Withrow

    One she wore on Sunday mornings
    strolling with a friend.
    Two she took on pleasant outings
    by the river bend.
    Three she kept for secret errands
    prowling in the dark.
    Four she hid beneath a bush
    beside the city park.
    Five she dressed in scarlet ribbons
    meant to catch the eye
    Of chickadee or meadow mouse
    or bashful butterfly.
    Six she bought on market day
    and paid a level price.
    Seven tagged along behind
    against her own advice.
    Eight she gambled and she lost
    in midnight games of chance.
    Nine she broke while practicing
    a whirling-dervish dance.
    Ten she groomed to gleaming black
    until her tongue turned red.
    Eleven she abandoned
    for a buttered crust of bread.
    Twelve she had inherited
    at birth with regal pride.
    She curled it close upon her breast
    and wore it when she died.

    Copyright 2010 Steven Withrow. All rights reserved

  3. Four Leaf Clover

    We hunted on our knees in clover
    running our fingers through grass
    trying to find four leaves
    in a green sea of threes.
    My little sister turned her back
    took two clovers
    ripped one leaf from each
    twisted both stems together
    and called, “Look I found one!”
    I used to do that
    so I almost told her it wasn’t real
    not a real lucky clover.
    But then
    I remembered how Grandpa says
    "You make your own luck."
    I gave my little sister a thumbs up
    and she smiled.

    © Amy LV

  4. Proper Fractions

    Whole numbers endlessly march up the line,
    their long journey never is done.
    But fractions stay home to slice up the space
    that lies between 0 and 1.

    The whole numbers always add units:
    plus one and plus one and plus one.
    The fractions divide it, then use only part,
    for some reason, they think that's fun.

    A fraction may cut up the unit
    like a pizza into six, eight, or four.
    Still, the work's microscopic: a fraction can cut
    that one into a billion or more.

    The fractions look sadly restricted,
    as they slice and re-slice the same space.
    Yet they can divide it in infinite ways,
    though the fractions seem stuck in one place.

    Oh, the whole numbers grab our attention
    with their soldierly march up the line.
    But there in the space between 0 and 1
    the fraction world plays with design.

    --Kate Coombs, 2010, all rights reserved

  5. For the past two days all I could think of was, She wants me to write a math poem? I don't do math! Then, just this afternoon I thought, Hey, wait, I've been writing fingerplays for years! (I'm a former children's librarian.)

    So, I wrote a fingerplay (also known as a counting rhyme--duh!):


    One little bee seeing an apple under a tree,
    flew back to the hive as quickly as could be.

    Two curious bees seeing the first bee's dance,
    flew away from the hive at the very first chance.

    They scouted around, then flew back home,
    alerting three more at the honeycomb.

    Four hungry bees who just couldn't wait,
    flew off to the apple tree and ate and ate.

    They ate and ate and ate some more,
    and the last five bees got nothing but the core.

    Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.


    The number pathways
    in my brain
    are grown over
    with words

    Mental machete’s
    what I need
    to clear the nouns
    and verbs

    And make again
    a traffic trail
    for all those

    © 2010 by Violet Nesdoly (all rights reserved)

  7. It has been a long time...I fear Tricia must check my math!

    Number Facts
    By Liz Korba

    IMAGINARY numbers!
    Do they vanish in thin air?
    My teacher says in sixth grade math -
    “Just know that they are there.”

    I did a little Google search -
    According to one text
    REAL numbers and IMAGINED ones
    Create what’s called COMPLEX.

    IRRATIONALS struck me this way
    Since they’re so very long,
    But they’re still REAL though they won’t stop
    (I’m shocked that I was wrong.)

    The NATURALS I understand -
    To order and to count.
    And NEGATIVES make sense to me –
    Alas, my bank account!

    And NATURALS with “OH”
    A most important number
    They discovered long ago.

    Its other name is ZERO
    Somehow EVEN – with no leaning
    Divide with – there’s “no meaning.”

    Which leads me to the “number”
    That I read about today
    It’s NaN – that’s “NOT A NUMBER”
    And it’s quiet – so they say.

    Ten digits should be simple
    (Though INFINITY’s a lot.)
    I fear I don’t KNOW numbers
    Be that RATIONAL or not.