the words “arithmetic,” “nay,” and “nix,” which may be unfamiliar to some children.
Also, tell a little about the poet Carl Sandberg, who wrote this poem.
Arithmetic is where numbers fly
like pigeons in and out of your head.
Arithmetic tells you how many you
lose or win
if you know how many you had
before you lost or won.
Arithmetic is all good
go to heaven – or five six bundle of sticks.
Arithmetic is numbers you squeeze
head to your hand to your pencil to your paper
till you get the right answer….
If you have two animal crackers,
one good and one bad,
and you eat one and a striped zebra
with streaks all over him eats the other,
how many animal crackers will you have
if somebody offers you five six seven and you say
No nono and you say nay nay nay
and you say nix nix nix?
If you ask your mother for one
for breakfast and she gives you
two fried eggs and you eat
both of them, who is better in arithmetic,
you or your mother?
Poem by Carl Sandburg. Taken from
The Random House Book of Poetry forChildren by Jack Prelutsky, editor. Illustrated by Arnold
Lobel. New York: Random House, 1983, p.
218. ISBN: 0394850106.
Extension: a) Ask
students to make up some “silly” problems that can be solved, problems similar to ones in the poem. Read several
problems aloud and have students solve them. b) Ask students to illustrate this poem. They can work as individuals or in groups.
c) Make a list of songs and popular rhymes that have numbers in them, such as “This old man.” Students may want to recite some of the songs and rhymes.