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Ten Black Dots

I am an avid reader, and I love books that integrate math and literature. Occasionally, my blog will feature a book that links the two.  I will summarize the book, give its overall mathematical theme, as well as list various activities you can use in your classroom.

Today's book is Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews (Greenwillow Books, 1986).  This picture book is for grades PreK-2 and deals with numbers and operations. 

The book asks the question, What can you do with ten black dots?  Then the question is answered throughout the book by using  illustrations of everyday objects beginning with one dot and continuing up to ten. Simple rhymes accompany the pictures such as:

"Two dots can make the eyes of a fox, Or the eyes of keys that open locks."

Materials Needed: 
  • Unifix cubes or Snap Cubes (multi-link cubes) as seen on the right
  • Black circles cut from construction paper or black circle stickers
  • Crayons
  • Pencils
  • Story paper
  • Calculators -simple ones like you purchase for $1.00 at Walmart


1)  Read the book a number of times to your class.  Let the students count the dots in each picture. On about the third reading, have the children use the snap cubes to build towers that equal the number of dots in each picture.

2)  Have the children think of different ways to make combinations, such as: How could we arrange four black dots?  (e.g. 1 and 3, 4 and 0, 2 and 2)  Have the children use black dots or snap cubes to make various combinations for each numeral from 2-10.

3)  This is a perfect time to work on rhyming words since the book is written in whimsical verse. Make lists of words so that the students will have a Word Wall of Rhyming Words for activity #4.
  • How many words can we make that rhyme with:  sun?  fox?  face?  grow?  coat?  old?  rake?  rain?  rank?  tree?
  • Except for the first letter, rhyming words do not have to be spelled the same.  Give some examples (fox - locks or see - me)
4)  Have the children make their own Black Dot books  (Black circle stickers work the best although you can use black circles cut from construction paper. I'm not a big fan of glue!)  Each child makes one page at a time.  Don't try to do this all in one day.  Use story paper so that the children can illustrate how they used the dots as well as write a rhyme about what they made.  Collate each book, having each child create a cover.

5)  Have the children figure out how many black dots are needed to make each book. (The answer is 55.)  This is a good time to introduce calculators and how to add numbers using the calculator.

If you can't find Ten Black Dots in your library, it is still available on Amazon.

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