Waterways of the World Math Block – Weeks 1 and 2

This is another block from Marsha Johnson’s grade 2/3 files.

Week 1: The Lateen (Addition)

The first week we focused on The Lateen. I told a story about a couple of boys who live on the river Nile. They watched their fathers who were trading goods by way of a Lateen boat on the river (with a description of what a lateen is), and thought they knew all about the boats. They decide to take one of the boats for a spin down the river. They were able to set sail, but they quickly lost control and were in danger of fierce water hippos and the approaching sea! Fortunately a fellow seaman rescues the children.

The next day’s story… After they had in time made amends and proved to be responsible young boys to their fathers, they were allowed to accompany one father to another city for trading. They traded beautiful bolts of silks for lovely red apples! The boys were given 10 apples to share. The older boy said okay, we will split them up (I now got out 10 red jewels). 1 for you and 9 for me… that makes 10! “No, no no!” cried the younger boy. “Okay, okay, said the older boy…. 2 for you and 8 for me… that makes 10!” “No, no, no! cried the younger boy. And on and on until the boy has reached 5 for you and 5 for me.

But the younger boy cries “No, no, no!” again! “6 for me and 4 for you!” Now it is the older boy’s turn to cry “No, no, no!” until the younger boy has reached 10 for me and 0 for you.

Eventually the father steps in and tells them to divide them up evenly, and my son showed me how to do that.

My son thought this story was hilarious, and it helped in our work on ‘What makes 10?’


Here is my lateen, with the one boy throwing up his arms in alarm, one pointing to the ocean up ahead, and the fierce hippos in the water.

We also had a short nature lesson about hippos, looked them up in Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study, and made beeswax hippos. We worked on mental math… if we have 1 hippo, how many legs, ears, tusks? What if we have 2 animals? What if they have a baby?

I wrote 0-9 on the board, and he wrote the numbers underneath for practice.

I had him write from 0 to 60 (as far as he could go in 2 days… too far, if you ask him). Then we looked at all of the number ‘friends’, like 2, 12, 22, etc. Although he was not feeling very friendly with them at that point. Maybe they will be more friendly when we review.

We also wrote out some addition sentences for practice in the book, using hippos and sails and so on. 2+2 = 4

He seems to have forgotten all of the processes from last year… or he was not quite ready to take them in at the time, so this review has been great.

Week 2: The Chinese Junk (Subtraction)

For the second week of the math block we focused on the Chinese Junk, which is pronounced Joong (thank you, wiki).

For the life of me I cannot remember the story that I told for the Junk, but I am sure it had something to do with it being fast, since I remember his fascination by that trait! I believe I embellished a story about trading spices from Marsha’s files.


Here is my Junk, with Chinese numbers on the side. I taught him the Chinese numbers from 1-10, which he did not like doing, but my fourth grader declared it fun, and “Why does he always get Fun School?” I just can’t seem to please them both!


Here is my second grader’s Junk, with the dock and spices. I think we used paprika, cinnamon, and tumeric.

We practiced subtraction with spices and fabrics being removed from the ship when it reaches port… 5-4=1. We practiced writing these sentences in the main lesson book and on little chalkboards.

I also told a Chinese Fairy Tale called The Spirit from Folk Tales of China by Eberhard.

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