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Math Moods

Explore how Lane Smith’s illustrations contribute to the mood created by the words of Jon Scieszka in their book, The Math Curse. Create illustrations about math moods on classroom windows or for a display on a hallway bulletin board.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith may never have been in a math class together, but they do share a wacky approach to describing math attitudes using words and illustrations in their book, The Math Curse. How can illustrations contribute to the mood conveyed by the words in a story? Ask students to think of some words to describe moods. Which facial expressions would you draw to show those moods? What colors would you choose to describe those moods? How do those words, expressions, and colors convey those moods?
    2. Read The Math Curse either as a read aloud, in pairs, or small groups using multiple copies of the text. Notice Lane Smith’s unique illustration style. He uses line and shape to convey his silly humor and also to compliment the mood set by the text via facial expressions. How do his color choices change over the course of the book to reflect changes in the math mood? How does Smith use other materials (dollar bills, stamped numerals, and numbers, letters, and figures cut from print sources) to add to his illustrations? How do the arrangements of figures and shapes convey mood?
    3. Ask students to design a math mood illustration in the style of Lane Smith. Use Crayola® Window Markers or Window Crayons on classroom windows. Or use Crayola Washable Markers to create artwork on paper. Provide magazines, newspapers, and number stamps for students to add to their mood illustrations. Students can color directly on the stamps with Window or Washable Markers. Exhale two good warm breaths of air on the stamp to keep it moist before stamping on the window or paper surface. Use Crayola Scissors and Glue Sticks to add cut-out numbers, letters, and figures to paper artwork.
    4. Display paper artwork on a hallway bulletin board or gallery arranged in the shapes of math symbols (+. -. x, ÷, #, $).
  • Standards

    LA: Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting).

    LA: Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.

    LA: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

    LA: Speak in complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.

    MATH: Work with addition and subtraction equations.

    MATH: Work with time and money.

    MATH: Solve problems involving the four operations, and identify and explain patterns in arithmetic.

    VA: Students experience, analyze and interpret art and other aspects of the visual world.

    VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

  • Adaptations

    Use Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils to colorfully solve the problems posed in The Math Curse. Display solutions near math mood artwork. Invite children to create similar math problems to challenge their classmates!

    Create folded paper mini journals for students to use throughout one full day in their lives to record the math they see EVERYWHERE in their lives. Invite each child to choose one problem to write and illustrate for a class Math Curse book.

    Ask children to interview adults to discover how they use math in their daily lives at home, in the workplace, in the marketplace, driving, etc. Paint a mural on large paper depicting math in everyday lives using Crayola Washable Paints.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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