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Children's Poetry
Poetry Break # 17
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Poetry Break # 17: A Poem Relevant to Mathematics

 

Introduction: Define 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

 

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 seven eleven all good children

   go to heaven – or five six bundle of sticks.

Arithmetic is numbers you squeeze from your

   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 no no and you say nay nay nay

   and you say nix nix nix?

If you ask your mother for one fried egg

   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 for Children 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.