Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Mitten Measurement Task

It's amazing the kinds of questions children can ask...
One of my favourite books to read in the winter in "The Mitten" by Jan Brett. The story is appealing to young children who love to retell the text and marvel at how big the mitten grows as each animal squeezes into it.  This week I read the book again upon request by one of the children.  At the end of the reading one child shared that she felt that the book wasn't really about "real things, because there was no way all those animals could fit into one small mitten". 
Sensing an opportunity for something rich, I questioned the children. I asked them to consider whether a mitten could really stretch that large to accommodate all the animals, and if it couldn't, how big did they think it would have to be in order to do so.

The children engaged in a lively discussion and agreed that the mitten would have to be very large - much larger than the one portrayed in the book - and it would be very time consuming to knit. We agreed that one would have to know exactly how big it had to be because if it was too small the animals wouldn't fit, and if it was too big it would waste the knitter's yarn and time.
I challenged the children to create a mitten the exact size it would need to be in real life to fit all the animals in the text: a mole, rabbit, hedgehog, owl, badger, fox, bear and mouse.  They readily accepted my challenge. The first thing we agreed upon was that we needed to know exactly how big each animal really was. The children weren't sure how to do this so I suggested researching their sizes on the internet. I helped them with this search.
Once we knew the size of the animals I helped the children measure out large butcher paper so that their drawings would be as realistic a size as possible. We discovered that the bear was the largest!

Here are the animals (excluding the bear) after the children researched, drew, and cut them out.

The next thing we needed to do was calculate how big the mitten needed to be. We referred to the book to see if the animals were side by side or on top of each other and then taped together large pieces of butcher paper to create the mitten.

The papers needed to be securely fastened...

...the outline of the mitten cut...

...and the seams stapled closed.

The children noticed that when complete the mitten was almost as big as our carpet!

The children enjoyed decorating it too!

We felt that it would be fun to retell the story while we placed each animal inside the mitten. We were eager to see if we were right and the animals all fit inside.

The children waited until it was their animal's turn and then gently placed their animal inside.

Once the retell was complete the children had one more question they asked to explore. Would a mitten that was large enough for all those animals hold 14 kindergarten children? They were quite eager to find out! One by one they hid inside the mitten, squeezing to the end and making room for their friends to join in!
This was also an incredibly rich math activity. The children had to consider the area of the mitten and if there would be enough room for all the children. They counted as each child entered the mitten and calculated how many more children were waiting on the carpet. They discussed how to preserve the integrity of their design as they entered the mitten so that it held together so all children could have a turn.

They were right! All 14 children did fit into the mitten!

But the best part of all? Getting out of the mitten!


  1. This is a wonderful rich task! I realize you did this with a KG class but I'm inspired to do a modified version with my Grade 4s. Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. For years, Kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers have used The Mitten for retelling. You took this to a whole new level, and explored area and volume. What a meaningful and rich math task. As the first commenter indicated, I think this is something you could do with other grades as well.


  3. P.S. I think it would be interesting to explore if the mitten needed to be so big in this case since the animals are flat. Would it need to be bigger if they weren't? I think that you got to this volume piece when all of the children entered the mitten. That said, it would be interesting to hear their thinking on different reasons it was squishier with them than with the paper animals. Just some additional thinking as I continue to contemplate your task.



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