Let Them Count

David Bogomolny
Illustrations by Eli Bogomolny (11 yo)

In a small, bright forest, a small group of little animals became very close friends. They would sit in class together, eat their lunches together, and play together after school. As they grew up and learned from each other, the animals taught themselves math tricks to make their games more interesting.

Three friends

One of the animals was a little monkey called MeeMee. MeeMee loved swinging on the branches and playing with all the rest of his friends. But most of all, MeeMee liked to eat fruit. And through his tree house window, MeeMee saw all the plump juicy fruit that he could ever eat.

Monkey swings

One day, MeeMee and two of his friends decided to go on a picnic. Ronnie the Rhinoceros said he'd make sandwiches, Gerri the Giraffe mixed some lemonade, and MeeMee was in charge of bringing the fruit.

Lunch items

High in the treetops, MeeMee spotted a bright yellow banana. As he dropped it into his satchel MeeMee counted, "That's one banana. One fruit."

Next MeeMee had to get an orange for Gerri, so he swung over to the orange tree and plucked a big round orange for his friend. As he tossed the orange into the satchel MeeMee counted, "Banana is one, orange is two. That's two fruits."

Finally, MeeMee swung over to the apple tree. He knew how much Ronnie loved apples! As he popped the juiciest apple into his bag, MeeMee counted, "Banana is one, orange is two, and apple is three. That's three fruits."

first counting

Everything was ready for the picnic. Ronnie brought the sandwiches, Gerri brought the lemonade, and MeeMee pulled the fruits out from his satchel. "Banana is one, orange is two, and apple is three," he said as he put them on the ground, "That's three fruits!"

Ronnie's mouth watered at the sight of his juicy apple, but he sat on the ground looking confused. "Why is the apple three? I came here first! I want the apple to be number one!"

What number is apple?

"That's simply the order in which I picked up the fruits: banana, orange, apple," replied a bewildered MeeMee. If you like we can mix them up and count again," he added.

Everyone was curious. "Let's try it!" said Gerri.

The little monkey picked all the fruits up and put them into a yellow picnic basket. Ronnie and Gerri held their breaths as MeeMee pulled an orange out of the basket. "One orange. That's one fruit," counted MeeMee.

Next MeeMee pulled out the apple. "Orange is one, apple is two," counted MeeMee, "That's two fruits."

"Let's see what's left," said MeeMee, as he pulled a banana out of the basket.

"Orange is one, apple is two, and banana is three. That's three fruits! Just like we had before!" Ronnie cheered, as he swished his tail.

Mimi with three fruits

MeeMee smiled with Ronnie, "It doesn't matter what order you count them in, Ronnie, it's again three fruits."

It does not matter how you count.

Gerri tilted her head and looked at MeeMee. "Will that work for more than three fruits?" she asked. "Let's do it again with a sandwich," she suggested, pushing a cheese sandwich towards the three fruits.

What about sandwich?

Suddenly Ronnie snorted, "How can we add a sandwich? Before, we were counting fruits!"

At that moment, the cheerful sun came out of the clouds and cast its light on the picnic. As the rays of sunlight lit upon the lunches, each snack cast a shadow onto the red picnic blanket.

Counting shadows

"Look," said Gerri, "We can count each snack's shadow! So if fruit has a shadow, and the sandwich has a shadow, we can count all of them together! It does not matter what we're counting. We can count fruits, snacks, or even shadows! The number won't change, just because we're counting snacks instead of fruits."

It does not matter what you count.

MeeMee nodded. "Gerri's right," he replied, "Let's count all the snacks now. Banana is one, orange is two, apple is three, and the sandwich is four. Four snacks. Now let's count them in a different order!"

Ronnie picked up the four foods and put them in the basket. "My turn to count!" he said.

Ronni prepares to count

The rhino put his hand into the basket and pulled out the sandwich. "Sandwich is one," he counted. "That's one snack," everyone agreed.

"I want to try counting too," said Gerri, as she pulled an apple out of the basket. "Sandwich is one, apple is two. Now there're two snacks."

Gerri counting apple

Next, Gerri pulled a banana out of the basket. "The sandwich is one, apple is two, and banana is three," she counted, "That's three snacks!"

MeeMee smiled. "I think this is going to work!" he said, as he reached his hand into the basket. "Okay, here's the orange! The sandwich is one, apple is two, banana is three, and orange is four! That's four snacks!"

The monkey was very proud of himself. "Counting is so much easier now! We can count in any order that we want to!"

MeeMee and his friends had learned a valuable lesson. Or had they? True, they learned that they could count in any order, because the number of snacks would always stay the same. But there were a few important details they had missed. Before sitting down for a meal they decided to play hide-and-seek. They took turns counting "one-two-three-four-I-won't count-any-more." When they finally sat down, new counting surprises were waiting for them in store.

Meemee at hide-and-seek


Related material
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  • The Idea of Counting
  • Four Less One Is Three
  • A Market Day
  • Finger Counting
  • Counting: The Beginning of Mathematics
  • The Basic Rules of Counting

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