One of my favorite ways to make math engaging for my kids and to increase interest is to combine math with literature. There are so many wonderful children’s books with beautiful illustrations, and almost any book can be used to explore math in some way. So today I’m going to share an entire collection of STEM ideas to go along with some fun and engaging Fairy Tale stories from Candlewick Press! This collection of Fairy Tale STEM Challenges will focus on math concepts, as well as engineering and design. So I hope you and your kids have fun with it!
*Please Note: This post was sponsored by Candlewick Press, and they provided the books for me to use and compensated me for my time. Read our full disclosure here.*
Why Fairy Tale STEM?
As I mentioned, I love combining math with literature. So when I was thinking about what books to try and how I could group them together, I decided on Fairy Tales.
I enjoy classic Fairy Tale stories, but I especially love fun and unique twists on a classic tale.
So I feel like combining STEM challenges with known stories adds a whole new element of fun and interest.
Plus, a couple of the books I’ll share are not your typical Fairy Tale, but really engaging stories using Fairy Tale characters.
So I hope you will check out this collection of books from Candlewick Press, as well as exploring the classic Fairy Tales a little deeper with the free Fairy Tale STEM download at the end of this post. 🙂
Fairy Tale STEM Building Challenges:
First I’m going to share 3 STEM building challenges that we did together based on 3 of the books we read.
Build the 3 Little Pigs’ Houses:
The first story we read together is Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker.
This story tells of Lucy, who tries to read a story to her dog, Mr. Barker. When he doesn’t listen and instead runs off, she follows him and they make their way through several classic Fairy Tale scenes.
At one point, they end up in the 3 Little Pig’s straw house.
So we based this challenge on the 3 Little Pigs. I had my kids work on 3 different challenges: building a house out of straw (plastic or paper straws), sticks (toothpicks and marshmallows) and bricks (LEGO bricks).
We then compared the structures to see what was the strongest, which they could knock over, etc. They especially loved trying to “blow them down.” Ha!
They loved this challenge and loved helping each other come up with ways to make them stand or hold together better. And they decided that the “stick” houses were the least sturdy!
The next story we read is called The Fairy Tale Handbook. This is a very engaging, interactive book with lots of lift-the-flaps and pop-ups.
The kids have loved going back to this again and again to learn new secrets about Fairy Tale characters or find a new flap they didn’t see before.
One page of the handbook gives a glimpse into the lives of Fairy Tale princesses, including Rapunzel.
Though her hair was long and strong enough for the witch and prince to climb up, we decided to create an alternative for her: a slide!
The challenge is to build a slide out of toilet paper rolls to help Rapunzel escape the tower.
By far the best part of this challenge was testing it out! We found several different dolls to slide down it, as well as some balls and marbles.
We then talked about how to make the slide stronger or faster (by making it steeper).
Build a Bed for Baby Bear:
The next book we read has been my favorite: Goldilocks and Just One Bear.
I won’t spoil the story for you, but I will say it is an adorable twist on the classic Goldilocks story. I also loved the illustrations and the attention to humorous details that I don’t think my kids got, but I enjoyed. 😉
For this challenge, I gathered a variety of materials from the dollar store and let my kids decide what they wanted to use.
The challenge is to build a strong, new bed for baby bear. I set out cupcake liners, paper, card stock, aluminum foil, bubble wrap, tape and scissors and they could use whatever they liked.
After they had each designed a bed, we piled pennies on top of each to see which could hold the most pennies before collapsing or ripping.
They then discussed why some materials held more than others, and how they could make it stronger.
Some changes they made to make them stronger was using multiple cupcake liners for the base, adding more tape to secure it better and turning the cupcake liners upside down.
My youngest placed a handful of liners upside down under the center of her bed to provide more stability and it helped strengthen it quite a bit.
Shapes, Counting and Fractions:
The next book we read was a fun adaptation of Cinderella. My kids loved this one because the illustrations reminded them of a Super Why story.
Design Cinderella’s Castle:
For this story, we pulled out the pattern blocks to review shapes, composing and decomposing shapes as well as counting and skip counting.
I’ve done this before when my oldest was in Kindergarten, and it was a hit, so I updated the page to go along with this set of Fairy Tale STEM challenges (in the download below).
I suggest laminating this building mat so that your kids can write the totals in dry erase marker and complete it again and again with different designs.
There are lots of other discussions you can have once your kids have built a castle and counted the total of each shape.
For instance, how many blocks did you use altogether? How many rhombuses did you use (large and small)?
How many more squares did you use than triangles? How do you know?
Did you use an even number of blocks or odd?
Plus, if you have older kids, there’s another building mat in the download that focuses on fractions, rather than counting.
So instead of writing they used 6 hexagons, they have to find what fraction of the whole 6 hexagons is.
Mapping Skills and Coordinates:
To finish our unit of Fairy Tale STEM challenges, I introduced mapping skills and finding coordinates with The Once Upon a Time Map Book.
I think this was my kids’ favorite out of our Fairy Tale collection. It’s an oversized book, with beautifully illustrated maps of Fairy Tale lands.
The book itself includes directions on each map to find your way through to either a special location, or to find some hidden treasure using the coordinates.
But I also created a “search and find” page for each map so my kids could have a place to record where items and characters are found. (Answer keys are also included)
These maps create a grid with A-E and 1-5 to list locations within the map. This is a great introduction to the coordinate plane and reading and writing coordinates.
My kids now understand that you have to list a horizontal and vertical direction to pinpoint a square in the map.
I hope this post has given you lots of fun ideas to incorporate math and engineering challenges into your Fairy Tales. And I hope you’re excited to go check out some of these unique books from Candlewick Press!
All of the handouts, as well as a materials list are included in the download. You can grab it free in my shop by clicking the link below!
Want to see more fun and engaging collections from Candlewick Press? Check out these:
- SPARKS for New readers
- Judy Moody and Stink
- Read and Wonder (Science readers)
- Brand New Readers (early readers)
- Candlewick Biographies
If you’re interested in the Fairy Tale books, these collections, or any other Candlewick books, use the code: CANDLEWICK at checkout to save 25%!
Have fun exploring math and Fairy Tales!
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