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NYU Steinhardt EMAT Teaching Residency
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Math lesson on addition and subtraction




3, 2, 1  

Sheila Brune

Math Through Literature

Theme : Flowers

Math Concept : Counting, Addition, and Subtraction

Objective : The children will be able to complete and create addition and subtraction facts up to 20 using the illustrative book Counting Wildflowers .

Grade Level : 1-3

Materials: Counting Wildflowers by Bruce McMillan, New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shephard, 1986

This textbook contains illustrations of many different types of flowers. The teacher may want to try to gather a few of these types to be used as hands-on manipulatives.


  1. Each page in the book contains a different type of flower which is respresented by circles at the bottom of the page. On the first page the Fragrant Water Lily is represented by white circles. Ask the students how many circles are green. On the board, write the equation 1+9=10. Continue to discuss the circles with the children as you read the book.
  2. At the bottom of page 11, there are 20 circles. Covering up the red circles that represent the Maltese cross blossoms, ask the children how many circles are left. Have them write their own equations.
  3. On page 17, there are 17 circles representing the black-eyed Susans in the picture. Ask the children how many more black-eyed Susans would have to be in the picture in order to have 20.
  4. Ask the children to figure out how many flower blossoms are shown in the entire book. They can work in pairs too formulate their answer. Then the entire class can discuss their different strategies used.
  5. Many other addition and subtraction problems can be created from the illustrations in the book.
  6. Have the students write their own problems and then test their partner. Encourage the students to draw pictures if they need help solving the problems.

Extension Activity: The teacher could gather together many different types of flowers for the students to work with. She passes out a variety of flowers to each student and assigns values for each flower. The students will then play the Bouquet Game . In this game, the students try to make a bouquet of flowers that has the greatest value. The students can trade with each other to acquire the flowers with the greatest values. The person with the most valuable bouquet wins the game and gets to keep his or her bouquet. This activity can be done right before mother’s day and the students can take their bouquets home as presents.

Adaptation : It may get expensive buying these flowers so you may find a friend that has a flower garden. Another idea, is for the students to draw or find pictures of various flowers.

Source : Braddon, Kathryn, Hall, N., and Taylor, D. Math Through Literature , (1993 ), Englewood, CO., Teacher Ideas Press

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