The Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly

Question: The Lady Who Swallowed the Fly -I know that, we have sang that since I was a child.  Are these books suppose to be math related and obvious about it?

When you realize that mathematics is much more than arithmetic, you start to see math in many more places than you realize.

The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly deals with a cumulative pattern with a limit. It is, quite mathematically: 1 = 1, 1 1=2, 1 1 1=3 and so on. And it is further mathematical in that you recount the cumulative addition in the story backwards, in exactly the same sequence as it is built up. Each item
is not only bigger than the previous one, but has a logical relationship in consuming the prior item, again reinforcing the cumulative "counter" going on in the story.

There is absurdity of course in the limit - how many things can she swallow and still live?? But for a young child, there is a thought process going of volume and increase to a limit. The funny part is how extreme that limit is - of course we could not swallow a dog and a cat - but we can swallow a fly and spider. At some point, mentally the child is calculating limits and entering into the absurd, which is size, space and volume thinking. When I read books like this I stop all the time and ask questions to the 4 y/o especially like, "Do you think YOU could swallow a cat??" She'll grin and say "No!!" And we'll agree that it is silly. The question though puts the story in her world, what would that feel like? Obviously a cat would be too big . . . size, space and volume.

Another more unusual book that does a different twist on this is Mother, Mother I Feel Sick, Call for the Doctor, Quick, Quick, Quick. Many folklore tales from ancient times have this kind of a theme - some are cumulative like this one, others are more sequential, like our modern If You Give a Mouse A Cookie . . . Some end up in a different place, others loop around in an endless circle. These are like mental geometry with language and develop mathematical thinking, especially if read repeatedly and my children do read these repeatedly. A toddler that cannot read can pick up these books having had them read to them and "read" them to themselves with the pictures forming the anchors for the stories. This is why I think picture books are superb for early math.

All the books on my library page are ones I actually own and use, I have been collecting these for years from Chris Brock's used book list, library sales, and I'll invest in a new one now and then. I don't buy much curriculum, so this is where my budget goes. We used the library for years, but my late fees often would have paid for a new book and caused me to search out the used books instead. If you are very good at managing library books, though, many are available.