GUEST BLOGGER RAJANI LAROCCA
Hi! I’m Rajani LaRocca, an author and a physician. I’ve always loved both STEM and literature. In fact, my work as a doctor is infused with my love for stories, and almost everything I write features some aspect of science, technology, engineering, or math.
A story with a math puzzle
My debut picture book, SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS, is set in ancient India. It tells the story of a poor boy named Bhagat, who seeks to improve his family’s future by earning a place as a singer in the rajah’s musical troupe. He travels to the rajah’s city, bringing all his family has left: a single rupee coin and a chain of seven tiny golden rings. In order to stay at an inn, Bhagat needs to pay one coin per night; but each link snipped costs one coin, and he only has one coin! Bhagat must figure out how to stay to sing for the rajah without overpaying for his room.
SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS introduces readers to the basics of binary numbers, which are explained more thoroughly in the Author’s Note. It also touches on the following aspects of math that can be explored in the classroom:
1. Math is everywhere
2. Math is important
3. Math is fun
1. Math is everywhere
Math is everywhere
In the story, Bhagat makes the connection that helps him solve the math puzzle by thinking of the math concepts in something he loves: music. He thinks about how a measure of music can consist of a single whole note, two half notes, or four quarter notes.
- Brainstorm in a group about math aspects in their favorite things or activities, such as sports, cooking, music, games…the possibilities are endless!
- Ask students to write about or draw a picture to show how math is part of their favorite activity
Math is important
In SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS, the rajah, although he is kind, is not an effective ruler because he ignores all the calculations he needs to consider in order to make sure his people prosper. Bhagat, however, saves the day with his math skills.
- Brainstorm in a group about the ways in which math makes things run smoothly at school, at home, in sports, games, or outer space!
- Have students write about or draw a picture of how math plays an important role in fairness or making things run well.
Math is fun
One of my favorite ways of learning, both when I was a kid and then with my own kids when they were little, was to tell each other riddles or puzzles and solve them together.
Classroom activity: Twenty Questions…with numbers!
Imagine there is an eccentric billionaire who has left a treasure in a special safe. The only way to open the safe is to enter a special number. There is a robot guarding the safe who can answer up to twenty questions regarding the number and will open the safe if you get it right! But it can only answer yes/no questions.
- You can increase or decrease the number of questions depending on the age of your students.
- In addition to odd/even and greater than/less than questions, students can ask if a number is prime, or a multiple of another number, is a perfect square, etc.
- Try to see if you can guess the right number by asking the fewest questions possible.
- The “treasure” can be something math-related as well!
Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area with her wonderful family and impossibly cute dog. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, she spends her time writing novels and picture books when she’s not practicing medicine. Her middle grade debut, Midsummer’s Mayhem (Yellow Jacket/Little Bee Books, 2019), an Indian-American mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and competitive baking, was an Indies Introduce selection, an Indie Next pick, a Kirkus Best Middle Grade Book of 2019, and a 2020 Massachusetts “Must-Read” title. Her debut picture book, Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math (Lee & Low Books, October 2020) is set in ancient India. The story centers around a math puzzle and an explanation of binary numbers. You can learn about her other forthcoming books at www.RajaniLaRocca.com and find her on Twitter and Instagram @rajanilarocca.