Balance, inequality, equality - L'altalena by Enzo Mari

There are lots of blogs and websites which highlight children's books with mathematical ideas in them. And we have lots of those books in my school. I also like to find books which are not especially made for children but can be great for teaching.

L'altalena by Enzo Mari is one such book and is about balancing animals. We were able to source a few copies in the Netherlands from a local book shop. And ideabooks is a good starting point if you are hoping to find a copy outside the NL.

Enzo Mari is a renowned product designer and had initially made the animals as an oak puzzle. We were able to source a set.

The animals are fun to sort out, to order by size, to talk about straight and curved body parts, to talk about heavier and lighter, to talk about equality and inequality. The children like to make stories about the animals coming onto the see-saw (we have a plank of wood)... and they like to see them fall down. Which is a bit terrifying since the shapes are so beautifully made! Soon I might get them cut out as stamps so that the children can make their own see-saw books, I have been able to make some cut files for laser cutting these out of foam... so that will be fun!

Since many playgrounds no longer have see-saws, having one in the classroom seems to be a must. Scales can help here, but taking a plank of wood and balancing it is a massive idea for our children to get hands on with. And these wooden shapes have a lot of story making potential for children.

These are listed on other websites, but we have found these books to have really obvious links to the one by Enzo Mari too:

  • Balancing Act, Ellen Walsh
  • How Much Does a Ladybug Weigh, Alison Limentani
  • Just a Little Bit, Ann Tompert

Get in touch if need some help on getting the animal puzzle.

Six land

I'm a huge fan of Six-land, as proposed by Andrew Jeffrey. It is an imagined land in which things work in base-6. I worked with a group of children from a mix of classes (aged 6-8) and we have been figuring out how the number system works in six-land and also how to measure things.

One of the conversations we had was about how children who lived in six-land, learn how to use their numbers. A child suggested they had counting books... so we made some! Books that count in base-6. One of my favourites was one from a group who counted rocks and other natural things and made their book by photocopying them.