My Little Story Corner

For the love of picture books

iF…A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers: Teaching Notes

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ifjpg.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxiF…A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers, David J. Smith (author), Steve Adams (illus.), New Frontier Publishing, 2015.


Love numbers? Love facts? Love history? If you answered yes to any of these questions, and you love challenging your own thinking, then you will love this fascinating information book by David J. Smith and Steve Adams; ‘iF…A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers’.  

iF… looks at our world and Universe, and all the things that encompass them, in a scaled down way that provides the reader with the power to more meaningfully understand the relative sizes and relationships of big concepts. Teacher and author, (If the World Were a Village, If America Were a Village and This Child, Every Child), David J. Smith, identifies the use of scale and modelling as a valuable tool for numeracy development, and henceforth facilitating knowledgeable citizens.  

iF… begins with a table of contents and a foreward page outlining the concept of the book; ”Some things are so huge and so old that it’s hard to wrap your mind around them… (This book) scales down, or shrinks, huge events, spaces and times to something we can understand.”  
With tons of mind-blowing facts and statistics, enormous numbers and unique perspectives, the book takes us through planet sizes, to the history of life on earth, significant inventions, to food, water, living species, money, energy, our population and lifestyle choices.  
Learning about these topics is far from boring. Planets can be compared to different ball sizes. If Earth were a baseball, Mercury would be a ping-pong ball, Venus; a tennis ball, Mars; a golf ball, and Jupiter; an exercise ball. If 3.5 billion years of life forms on Earth were condensed into one hour, bacteria is first to arrive in one second,  dinosaurs appear after 56 minutes for 3 minutes only, and modern humans make an appearance with 0.2 seconds left to spare.        
Real-life materials demonstrate how each grand idea can be modelled in the classroom. The Inventions are laid out on a one metre long measuring tape and a 30cm ruler. The surface areas of The Continents are divided into percentages and pictorially spread across the two pages. The wealth of the population is represented with piles of coins and a world map. And your whole life activities can be shown in the form of a large pizza.  
The illustrations by award-winning, Steve Adams, are absolutely incredible. The detail, perspectives, pictorial and graphic representations accurately depict the mammoth amount of information in an appealing and easy way for the reader to comprehend the ideas.   A fortune of research has been compressed in to this book, and any reader will certainly gain a wealth of knowledge back after reading it.

iF…, creative, challenging, eye-opening. It’s the kind of brain overload primary school children will love.  

Review by Romi Sharp


Before Reading:
Show students a toy or model of an aeroplane, car or large animal. Ask, Is this the actual size of a car, or elephant? How would you describe its’ size? What do the terms ‘scaled down’ and ‘proportional’ mean?
What other things are too large to hold in our hands? How might you represent these? What about concepts that can’t be held, such as time, distance or the population? How might you show events that occurred over billions of years?  

During Reading:
Discuss some of the concepts found in the book. Does it make sense?  

After Reading:
Is this text an imaginative, informative or persuasive text? How do you know?
What were the favourite / most interesting ideas? Were there any ideas that students want to know more about? Are there other ways to represent a particular topic from the book? What other ideas can you think of to explore that weren’t covered in the book? Perhaps something relevant to you.  

Curriculum Activity.


Learning Outcomes:
Measurement and Geometry.
Using units of measurement
Measure and compare the lengths and capacities of pairs of objects using uniform informal units(ACMMG019)

Number and place value
Recognise, model, represent and order numbers to at least 1000 (ACMNA027)

Design, Creativity and Technology Learning focus  
In response to simple design briefs, students develop basic design ideas based on their experiences of working with materials/ingredients and components. They talk about their design ideas and thought processes and start to represent these visually by using models, pictures and words. They consider that more than one solution may be possible and begin to give reasons for changes in their thinking. Students consider whether their design solutions work and are appropriate for the purpose for which they were designed. With guidance from the teacher and feedback from peers, they reflect on how they designed and made their products.  

1. Pose the question, ”If a blue whale were a watermelon, how would you represent other kinds of whales and sea life with pieces of fruit?”
2. Make a list of whales and sea life. Research and write their sizes next to the name. Make another list with fruits of various sizes. Collect and measure each one and write the size next to the name.
3. Distribute fruits to correlating whale/sea creature with a visual display. Discuss and make comparisons. Brainstorm other ways can this information be represented.
4. Assessment Task:
Allow students to select a chosen method (eg. Graph, timeline, visual model with materials, etc), and work in a group to represent the information.  

Extension Ideas.
Learning Outcomes:

Civics and Citizenship
Learning focus

Students begin to participate in a range of class and school activities such as recycling, taking responsibility for class resources, and marking local and national celebrations and commemorations. They explore the purpose and benefits of school, community and national events. Students investigate the ways individuals, families, groups and communities can work to improve their environment.

1. Students to pose their own questions based on personal experiences and represent this visually (eg. Daily life activities as a puzzle, or, amount of rubbish collected in a week shown as piles of blocks).
2. Pose a new question in reverse. For example, select things that are miniature and represent them on a larger scale.

Lessons by Romi Sharp
© My Little Story Corner 2015.
For personal and classroom use only, not permitted for commercial use.

Author: Romi Sharp

Qualified teacher, copywriter, reviewer, picture book writer and fanatic, acting publicist to the book stars, and constantly immersed in the world of children's literature. Founder of Books On Tour PR & Marketing, Just Write For Kids and My Little Story Corner.

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