One is a snail, ten is a crab

Inspired by Marilyn Burns’ blog post about using children’s literature to teach math, I decided to try some of her suggestions with the read-aloud One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab by April Pulley Sayre and Jeff Sayre.

One is a snail, ten is a crab

I was working with a small group (six) of JK to Gr. 2 students, so I wanted to focus on the different ways that can be used to represent a number. First, we read the book together, stopping at key points to allow the students to think about how each number was being represented. For example, asking:

  • Is there another way to show seven feet?
  • How do you know there are seven feet?

I also stopped at a couple points to allow students to predict what the next page will show (e.g. after 7, 10, 20). After finishing the read-aloud, I explained the Mathletes’ task: using cutouts of the different creatures from the book, the students had to show me a certain number of feet by glueing down the cutouts in their math journals. As there was a range of abilities in the group, I created custom targets for each of the six students. For some, they were given the extra challenge of showing me a number without using certain creatures (i.e. without using crab for 10  feet). The Mathletes liked the challenge, and some were getting quite creative in their approach! I think this task lends itself nicely to differentiated instruction, and the students enjoyed mixing and matching the different kinds of feet.

To create the cutouts, I made ten copies of the image below and cut them out. If I were to do it again, I would have the different cutouts in separate little bowls/containers on the table to prevent them from getting mixed up as the students were working. As Marilyn Burns describes, this activity could be scaled up for older grades by incorporating multiplication and equations to show certain numbers. Check out her full blog post on how this book can be used to target different grade levels. A definite must-have for my future teaching library!

one is a snail, ten is a crab


Pulley Sayre, A., Sayre, J., & Cecil, R. (2006). One is a Snail, Ten in a Crab: A Counting by Feet Book. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.


  1. mary anne cowan says:

    Children’s literature is such a wonderful springboard for exploring math concepts. This is my absolute favourite book to share with children, and your activity was perfect to meet all the diverse learning needs in your group. A great book to add to your collection!

    Liked by 1 person

  1. […] One is a snail, ten is a crab […]


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