Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Lion's Share

Written and illustrated by Matthew McElligott
Most enjoyed by 1st through 4th graders

Matthew McElligott has a way with math concepts that makes them so simple to understand. In 'Bean Thirteen', reviewed here, he covered simple division. In 'The Lion's Share', he tackles fractions and does it so well it can almost be said that fractions are easy (note, I said almost!).

Each year, the Lion holds a special dinner party for his animal friends. Ant is invited for the first time and is quite excited. Wanting to make a good impression, he arrives on time only to discover that the other guests are there already, indulging in a glorious feast but displaying terrible table manners. When the lion serves dessert, he invites his guests to help themselves and each does in his own greedy way. The elephant feels that half is his fair share so he takes half of the cake. The hippo feels that he can take half of what's left since the elephant took half. The gorilla takes half again and so on until the portion left for the ant crumbles before he can take a bite. Feeling terrible, the ant offers to make the lion a cake. When the others hear this, they wish to outdo the ant, offering twice what the guest before him has offered. So the beetle offers to make two cakes, followed by the frog who offers four, and so on until the elephant, who started the whole greedy affair, must offer a staggering number of cakes in order to save face.

Not only does 'The Lion's Share' excel at showing the effects of halving and doubling, it also serves as a great object lesson for greed and humbleness. Kids see what happens when one is self-centered but they'll cheer for the simply humility of the ant. The book demands using real cake to demonstrate the halving for the kids. M&M's could be used to show the doubling. It would be an object lesson that would stay with the kids and I'm sure would soon be a favorite. I'll be on the look-out for more math books by Matthew McElligott.

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