Jayden’s Rescue (Vladimir Tumanov, Scholastic Books, 2002) is the delightful story of three children who save a queen from her evil captor. This alone would be an interesting novel for intermediate (gr 4-6) students, but the fabulous part is that the queen is rescued by the children as they solve a series of math problems, some 400 hundred according to the story. Their problem solving skills and strategies are developed throughout the story. In fact, the main character is struggling with math when the story opens, and we get to witness his growing competence.
I read this novel to my grade 4 class each Wednesday during our 45 minute session, I stopped reading whenever a problem was presented to the characters in the story, and had my own problem solvers go to work. Once we had solved the problem for ourselves, I would continue reading the story.
There are about 14 problems actually given in the book, addressing quite a few different strands and topics in math. They involved pattering, grouping, linear measurement, time, exponents, algebraic concepts, and such. There were a few problems for which I had to suggest some tools and/or strategies to get me grade four’s going since some of the problems were a bit beyond what they could do completely on their own (e.g., the exponent question). But as a class they were quite successful and enjoyed the book. The overall rating they gave the book on a scale of 1-10 was an 8 (and that included all the math!)
Here’s an example of one of the problems given to the characters by one of the “monsters” guarding the queen:
I’ve many brothers, young and old. We’re all ten years apart.
I’m in the middle of the bunch. Let’s see if you are smart.
The youngest brother’s age is ten, the only age I’ll tell.
The rest is tricky, I’m afraid, so listen very well.
With all our ages added up, we’ve lived 1200 years.
How old am I? Please tell me now, and dry up all your tears.
(Jayden’s Rescue, p.46)
I plan to read the novel again to my new grade 4 class next year. It is definitely worth doing again! Give it a try — I know you will be happy you did.