Math Activity Themes: Penguin Math

Penguin Math Activities

The movies have renewed interest in penguins. Use this captivation with penguins to sneak in some strong math activities.

Penguin Math Mat

Use a penguin math mat to model addition sentences. Students may roll a die and place that many counters on one penguin. The student rolls the die again and places that many counters on the other penguin. Next, the student writes a number sentence in the spaces provided.

Variation: Insert the penguin math mat in a sheet protector and give student a dry erase marker. Have the student toss a die and make that many tally marks on one of the penguins. The student tosses the die again and makes that many tally marks on the other penguin. Finally, the student writes a number sentence in the spaces provided below the penguins.

Pascal's Penguins

Pascal's Penguins is an effective introductory activity to the well-known mathematical pattern known as Pascal's Triangle. Students must look for patterns in these penguin variations of Pascal's Triangle. The activity challenges students to identify patterns, fill in the missing numbers and write the next line in the pattern. Class discussion should encourage students to share all of the patterns they see in Pascal's Triangle and discuss how these patterns helped them discover the missing numbers.

  • Pascal's Penguins - 1 introduces primary students to a small version of Pascal's Triangle in this simple patterning activity.
  • Pascal's Penguins - 2 introduces a larger version of Pascal's triangle and encourages students to identify the different patterns within the triangle and use these patterns to fill in the missing penguin numbers.

Penguin Glyphs & Graphing Ideas

Penguin Glyphs

  • Create a Penguin Glyph. Introduce the legend then present the sample penguin. Ask students to write about what the glyph tells about the person who made it. Next, have each student use the legend and construction paper cutouts to create his/her own penguin glyph.
  • Teaching Heart's Penguin Unit includes a legend for a penguin glyph.
  • Little Giraffe's Penguin Unit includes a glyph and other ideas for Penguin Math including a mat and lima bean penguins.
  • Download a free Penguin template for making glyphs.

Penguin Graphs

  • Research and Graph Penguin Weights.
  • Research and Graph Penguin Heights.
  • Research and Graph Penguin Populations using Penguin Links which present penguin information in very usable format for Gr. 1-2 students.
  • Quick penguin graphs: different graph formats are suggested so that students experience a variety of ways to organize data
    • Have you ever seen a live penguin? [clothespin graph]
    • Compare student heights to penguin heights [double bar graph]
    • What's your favorite kind of penguin? [bar graph]
    • What's your favorite penguin movie? [pictograph]
    • What's your favorite penguin book? [pictograph]
    • How many dice tosses does it take to free all of the penguins in the Free the Penguins game? [line plot]

Math-Literature Connections: Penguins

365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental

The family in this book receives a penguin in the mail each day and these penguins quickly add up to take over the house and their lives. The book already contains measurement calculations, but the book also lends itself to some problem solving possibilities. After enjoying the book, continue with some of these problem solving activities:

  • Students will apply calendar skills to solve the Penguin Delivery problem.
  • Dad dreams up another crazy arrangement for the penguins in Penguin Formation.
  • See more Penguin Problems including Penguin Parade and Penguin Puzzler which also feature patterns that would have intrigued Dad.
  • Try Pascal's Penguins, based on a famous triangular number pattern.

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester

This book is a great literature jump-off for a lesson on measurement. Check out these internet ideas to see how creative teachers have used a penguin theme to present measurement activities:

  • Read the book Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester as an introduction to penguin math activities.
  • Measuring Penguins describes activity in which kindergarten students use linking cubes to measure life-size penguin cutouts.
  • Where in the World Is Tacky the Penguin? encourages students to measure distances in penguin feet.
  • This Penguin Webquest requires students to research sizes of different penguins using the links provided. Students then create life-size replicas of their assigned penguins for a class bulletin board.
  • Sing All the Penguins Song to introduce penguin measuring activities.

Penguin Counting Books

After students have experienced many different counting books, have young students create a Penguin Counting book to accompany the unit.

Additional Penguin Books:

These books might also be used to complement a penguin math unit.

  • Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton
  • Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
  • Cinderella Penguin: Little Glass Flipper by Janet Perlman
  • The Penguin and the Pea by Janet Perlman
  • The Emperor Penguin's New Clothes by Janet Perlman
  • Little Penguin's Tale by Audrey Wood
  • The Penguin and the Pea by Janet Perlman
  • Antartic Antics: A Book pf Penguin Poems> by Judy Sierra
  • Plenty of Penguins by Sonia Black

Penguin Games

Coordinate Graphing: Capture the Penguins Game

Capture the Penguins Game uses the outcome of two-dice toss to form a coordinate pair. Students toss two dice (one regular and one A-F) in this fun game that introduces students to coordinate graphing in the spaces.   Students form a coordinate pair based on the dice toss and capture a penguin, if possible.   Students use the accompanying recording sheet to keep score during the game.

  • A-F Dice: Create A-F dice using plain dice or purchase small wooden cubes at a craft store to make the dice.
  • Penguin Pieces: Penguins pictured to the right were created by painting wooden clothespins and doll stands, both readily available at craft stores.

Number Sense: Penguin Bowling Game

Play the Penguin Bowling Game to provide mixed basic facts practice. Students toss 4 dice, then use the numbers from the dice throw and any of the four operations (+, -. *, /) to form expressions to knock down penguin pins. They are trying to create expressions that result in answers of each number from 1-10.

Students use a Score Sheet to record group scores as one does in real bowling games. Remember to model the scoring process, using an overhead of the scoring sheet, if students are not familiar with scoring regular bowling games. Teachers will especially have to model how to score a strike, as students will be strongly motivated to knock down all ten penguins in each round.

Free the Penguins Game

The penguins are stuck on the ice floes. Only a roll of the die can free them to search for food in the ocean. Students will practice addition or subtraction facts as they try to be the first to free their penguins. Use mats with clothespin penguins for the most fun!

These games are not only an excellent opportunity to practice basic facts but they allow students to collect data and reflect on the probability inherent in the game. Suggestions are included with this game for students to keep tallies of all dice tosses, organize the class data in a line plot, and then analyze the data for patterns and trends.

Penguin Problem Solving

  • Penguin Fishing challenges students to identify the pattern in the number of fish the penguin catches each day, write a rule for the number of fish the penguin catches based on the day, then use that rule and pattern to predict how many fish the penguin will catch on each of the next three days.
  • Penguin Parade:   pattern problem-solving task that asks students to figure out how many penguins marched in the parade, given the marching pattern.   PDF file contains problem, challenge and solution.
  • Penguin Puzzler:   pattern problem-solving challenge that provides the total number of penguins and requires students to analyze the pattern to discover how many many rows of penguins marched in the parade.   PDF file contains problem and solution.
  • Students will apply calendar skills to solve the Penguin Delivery problem.
  • Dad (from 365 Penguins) dreams up another crazy arrangement for the penguins in Penguin Formation.

Penguin Links

  • Play FunBrain's Penguin Waiter to practice using percents to compute the correct tip for dinner checks.   Four levels of difficulty make it possible to meet the varied needs of learners in a class.
  • Penguin Tangrams would be a great math center activity. Consider creating black images on card stock that students can cover with tangrams for a reusable option.
  • Place the Penguins Game prompts students to place penguins on the correct multiple of 100, 10 and 0 in the number grid to make the given number.
  • See Penguin Links for more information about penguins and their habitats.
  • Review Penguin Capers, a K-3 penguin unit, for more penguin activities and resources.
  • Visit the Busch Gardens Penguin Handbook for pictures and information on penguins.