“The Greedy Triangle” by Marilyn Burns

greedy triangle

This is a wonderful book to use in a cross-curricular context when teaching kids shapes and basic geometry. It particularly introduces students to new, correct names for shapes. This broadening of their vocabulary is another learning outcome from simply enjoying a clever story and then playing with the story through drama games.

A common technique before reading a book is to predict what the story may be about. The title of this story, along with the front cover provides lots of room for speculation and prediction.  It’s also an opportunity to introduce the idea of maths before the story begins.

So as to not kill the flow of the story, I read this book with little interruption. While you could stop at every page and ask kids to point out the way the shapes are used and offer more suggestions, I believe there’s time for that later or on the second read. As my daughter often reminds me, sometimes kids just want the story to be read as is.

A couple of good follow up activities:

With younger students I would start with a living picture to review the book. Students sit in a circle, and once given the title of the picture, they enter the circle one at a time (usually when they are ready it will just happen or you can ask for volunteers) and state what they are while creating the object/shape with their body.  To highlight the flow of the book and transitions of shapes, I call each living picture the new shape. When the title is “Triangle” kids jump up as the triangular objects from the story. You can then encourage them to think of more. Then on to “Quadrilateral” and so on. 

With older students you can have them, in groups, come up with freeze frame for each shape. Every group member could come up with their own (with help from their group) or they could work on items as a whole group. On the call, they would transition to the next shape. This is a wonderful group working, problem solving and creativity activity.

If students are enjoying the process, this lesson can develop further where each group is given a different shape and they create (with preparation time) an improvisation using as many objects of that shape as possible. The objects can be mimed, or made quickly and easily using paper, scissors, pencils to represent. Normally I would stay away form creating props but in this context it makes sense and is useful as the students explore the shapes. It’s also a great group working activity as they try to find links between the objects and create a story. Once prepared, students present to the class who then can give feedback and discuss how many ways the shape was used.

If the shape focus is not of interest, or the class is able to look further, a discussion about how this story parallels with people and their greed would be really interesting. Students may be able to find examples of “Greedy Triangles” in their own life and wider. Possibly another opportunity for some script writing or prepared improvisation.



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