Sunday, November 9, 2014

Composite or Prime?

 Her age 
is 9.
Is that 9
or prime?

     I have a wonderful collection of grandchildren and am continually on the lookout for both math and poetry activities to include in the things that they enjoy.  Recently I mail-ordered retired fourth-grade teacher Franny Vergo's collection Mathapalooza:  A Collection of Math Poetry for Primary and Intermediate Students (AuthorHouse, 2013).  Here is a sample from that collection: 

       Composite or Prime
       Is the Question          by Franny Vergo

       Is that number composite or prime?
       Kids ask that question all the time.
       The answer is actually quite plain;
       It's the number of factors that you can name.

       With factors, all numbers have themselves and one,
       If there are no more, then it's prime and you're done.
       Composite can easily have some more,
       Like twelve has twelve/one, six/two, and three/four.

       Zero and one are not composite or prime.
       There are no exceptions at any time.
       If you know the number's times facts, the answer's easy to get.
       Just pull the factors from all its facts, and you are all set.

My reactions to Vergo's poem are mixed -- I frown as I see that I must add information from my own head to make the characterizations of prime and composite complete.  On the other hand, that is what I expect to do with a poem -- to work as I read it, combining the poet's artful construction with layers of meaning from my own experiences that I add as I read.

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