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Math in Literature

Math can be the basis of stories and poems. We will read "One Grain of Rice", by Demi, in class. In the olden days, stories were often used to pass on information about the world around us - these stories are sometimes called 'wisdom tales'. What do you think was the reaction of little kids listening to that story around the fire hundreds of years ago?

Math still pops up in stories today - you have been reading "Chasing Vermeer" by Blue Balliett, and so you already have become aware of the use of math, however disguised, in this book.

Now we are going to look at some other instances of math in literature. Let's look at the poem "Arithmetic" by Carl Sandburg.

What do you think Carl Sandburg’s poem “Arithmetic” was about?

Is that what you expect a poem to look like?

In what way did he reveal his feelings about Arithmetic?

Do any of you remember the book "Harold and the Purple Crayon"?

The author of that book, Crockett Johnson, created artworks using geometric shapes, and higher-level math curves. You can see some of them here.

I want to leave you with one more poem - I think that this poem, "Warning for Children" by Robert Graves, is one of the best explanations of the scientific process that I have ever read. See what you think!


Write a math or science poem or song. It may be about a specific part of math or science, or it may be general. Poems may rhyme and have rhythm or they may not. What makes a poem a true poem is that it expresses your feelings, so even if you dislike math, you can use that feeling and write about it. If you find something fun or interesting, use that feeling and write about that. The poem must have at least 6 lines. If you write a song, you may use a tune that most people will know, or you may make up your own tune and sing it to the class. This will be assessed using the following rubric:

Expresses a personal feeling: 5 points

Is about math or science: 5 points

Is recognisably a poem or a song: 5 points

Is attractively laid out and tidy : 5 points