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Friday, May 20, 2011

How Do You Count a Dozen Ducklings?

How Do You Count a Dozen Ducklings?
How Do You Count a Dozen Ducklings?
by In Seon Chae
illustrated by Seung Ha Rew

Ages 4-8

Published by Albert Whitman & Company(2006)

Mama duck lays twelve eggs, and they all hatch just fine to bring us a dozen adorable ducklings, each with their own unique features, expressions and personality. Mama notices there are just way too many for her to count, so, she decides to count them in different ways that doesn't involve going all the way to twelve, and yet can keep track of her dozen ducklings.

So, she sorts them in pairs, six rows of twos. Now she counts up to six and six times two makes twelve.

Then, thinking six is a bit much, she sorts them in threes, four rows of threes. So she just has to count up to four. Four times three is twelve.

Even that seems more than she wants to count up to, so she sorts them in sixes, two rows of sixes. Two times six is twelve.

As we can guess by now, this is quite instructive in grouping, skip counting, factoring, to figure out how many ways can we make twelve. Ana and I used to play something like this with marbles. Start with a small number, like 6 marbles, and see how many ways we can group them. Then move on to 8, then 12. It gets tricky with 3, 5 and 7. But we were just trying to understand the very basics. This exercise possibly also helps notice the Commutative laws of multiplication (and addition).

Anyway, in the story, a hungry wolf who cannot see well, hears Mama duck count to two and thinks, two is not much but is still enough for lunch and tries to catch them. But of course, he doesn't know Mama duck's trick of sorting by sixes and then counting to two. So he is fooled as the twelve ducklings attack him and chase him away, instead of the defenseless two that he was sure of eating.

Og doesn't get anything much about the skip counting, factors and additions yet, but, he liked looking at each of the twelve ducklings - they each have distinctive features like shape of head, hair, facial expression, a whole personality - trying to see who was the line-leader in one arrangement versus the next, who was angry and chasing who, who was up in the air upside down, and who wasn't facing the right way when lined up etc. The illustrations are lively and animated, making it quite entertaining for the little ones.

Originally published in Korea as A Dozen Ducklings Are Too Many in 1999, this book was quite a surprise favorite among our recent reads.

[image source: Albert Whitman Website]

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