Monday, May 27, 2013

Nursery rhymes and counting

Learning by repeating is a very common useful way of both entertain young children and teach them a bit of arithmetics. Nursery rhymes, or Mother Goose Rhymes, can be aimed at counting, but also addition, subtraction, and multiplication.

The first rhymes are little stories about a number, like One little flower, one little bee:
One little flower, one little bee.
One little blue bird, high in the tree.
One little brown bear smiling at me.
One is the number I like, you see.
Then some are about addition, like Four little fishes:
Four little fishes swimming out to sea,
One met a shark!...
And then there were three.
Three little fishes wondering what to do,
One hid in a great big shell...
And then there were two.
Two little fishes looking for some fun,
One chased after a wave...
And that left one.
One little fish with all his friends gone,
Went back home to find his mum...
And that left none!
Subtraction needs a higher level of abstraction, and Fly away is a good example of it:
Ten little sparrows cheeping at the door,
Six flew away and then there were four.
Ten big magpies sitting in a tree,
Seven flew away and then there were three.
Ten shiny mynah birds sitting on the line,
One flew away and that left nine.
Ten white seagulls sitting in the sun,
Nine flew away and that left one.
Then comes the multiplication, which is aimed at bigger kids, see for example Age:
Mary’s five and Bea is three,
Bob is nine, that’s three times Bea.
In four more years I’ll be eleven,
That’s much better than being seven.
Granddad’s sixty I am told,
How many years till I’m that old?
Funny how mum’s age never changes,
She’s been twenty-one for ages!
All these rhymes come from the Lit2Go which offers a recording of them, with student activity to better understand them.
If you are interested in the matter, you can also find many counting rhymes books available at Amazon.

Illustration: A Book of Nursery Rhymes by Clara E. Atwood (1901).

Comptines numériques en anglais (in French)
Canções infantis com numerais em inglês (in Portuguese)
Canciones infantiles en inglés (in Spanish)

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