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Fish Eyes by Lois Ehlert

Written in response to a question on the LivingMathForum.

Question:  One of the books we found was Fish Eyes. Do I just read this book, or is there more to it?  Btw, the kids I'm reading this one to are 5 and 8.

A book like Fish Eyes would be on my lap to read with about 4-5 others of similar length, or with one or two that are longer. That particular book is more for the younger children, I suppose being more specific might help in that it's pre-multiplication age, but my 8 y/old loves the artwork and listens in. That author/illustrator has a beautiful living science book called Feathers For Lunch I just found recently as well, if you like the artwork.

It's an addition book, even though it may not look like it, for the very young, anticipate that 2 1 equals 3, 3 1, equals four, and so on, there's a pattern. So as I read, I read the last part "plus me makes . . ." and leave it up to my girls (4 & 6) to fill in the blank. My 6 y/o has gotten used to letting the 4 y/o answer the easy ones like this, or they take turns. As the text doesn't exactly repeat each time, they get that the math is the pattern. There is also visual stimulation with the adjectives and artwork - some pages are very mixed up, but some are symmetrical. Whenever I see a page that has some symmetry, I ask if there is a pattern, or can we count by 2's, or 5's, etc. (similar to the Greg Tang books but w/out the script!).

If you have the book you can see on the page before the 1 fish, there is a neat little line of green fish - count have them count those by 2's (2, 4, 6, 8 etc.) with 2 fingers each. You then might count the light green fish, and the dark green fish, noticing the alternating pattern. On the 7 page there are four little fish that have 2 stripes each, count the little fish, then count the stripes by 2's - multiplication. We do this technique with so many books it becomes natural, and reading in a group they vie for their turn to do it. On the 10 page, my 6 y/o might be the one to count the blue fish and the green sea horses, adding 5 5 to get the total of 10. I really like this book because it is predictable in some ways, but not in others. I have it listed as not necessarily engaging for the middles, so your 8 y/o may not go for it, but mine listens in on ALL our readalouds if he can. And tag lines like "If you could truly have a wish, would you wish to be a fish?" I read with a lot of feeling, looking right at my 4 y/o, then my 6 y/o, usually rewarding me with a huge grin and a "Naahhh." Have fun and keep it lively.

Julie Brennan
June 18, 2004