Math Literature Integration: Sal’s Blueberries

For this assignment, I created my first lesson plan–a unique math lesson that incorporated fun children’s literature into the learning objective. Many children (not to mention adults) are intimidated by math class, and stories that illustrate math concepts are a great way to pique their interest and excitement for math.

“Blueberries for Sal,” by Robert McCloskey, is an adorable picture book with an equally adorable story. It was one of my favorite books growing up. I actually had to dig it out of my keepsake box for this assignment! 🙂

My teacher gave me a grade of 93% for this assignment, most points docked for grammar/spelling mistakes. She also had the thought that I could use actual blueberries and little containers for the first activity for an even more hands-on approach to the story.

SOL: Grade 1

“Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Mathematics” (2007): “Represent real-world situations involving addition and subtraction basic facts, using objects and number sentences (

Story Summary

Blueberries for Sal

McCloskey’s (1976) book is about Little Sal, who accompanies her mother to Blueberry Mountain to pick berries to can for winter. On the other side of the mountain, Little Bear accompanies his mother up the slope to fatten up on berries for the winter. In the process of picking and eating, both Little Sal and Little Bear find themselves separated from their mothers. In their attempts to relocate their respective mothers, they each end up with the other’s mother! Will the mothers be able to locate their proper offspring?


To recognize a mathematical operation in a real-life situation. To use a visual drawing and then an equation to represent the addition and subtraction of blueberries from little Sal’s pail.


A handout with a picture of a pail like Sal’s (created in Window’s Paint and Microsoft Word) and a blue marker for each child.

Literature Integration Handout Picture

Activity 1

Before I begin reading I will explain that everyone must listen carefully to the story and pay close attention when Sal is picking and putting berries in her bucket and when she is eating them out of her bucket. When she puts berries in her pail, they will draw the same number of blueberries in the pail on their handouts. When she eats them out of her pail, they will cross the same number of blueberries off their pail picture. (They will need to listen carefully, because sometimes Sal picks berries and eats them right away without putting them in her bucket.)

After I read through the story, I will have the children share how many blueberries their picture shows that Sal had left (not counting the ones they crossed out) at the end of the day. If the students followed the story closely and accurately, they will have drawn a total of 7 blueberries in the pails on their handouts, crossed out 4, leaving Sal with only 3 blueberries in her pail when she leaves Blueberry Mountain. Some of them may not have tracked the story properly and will have wrong answers. When they are finished looking over their pictures, I will go back over the story with them and use a whiteboard to visually explain how to write an equation for the number of blueberries in Sal’s pail from the story in a step-by-step, interactive fashion: 3 added (p. 8) + 1 added (p. 9) – 4 eaten (p. 9) + 3 added (p. 40) = 3 left (p. 55).

3 + 1 – 4 + 3 = 3

Activity 2

To reinforce and stretch beyond the lesson, the children will next have to write their own equation to show how many blueberries Sal would have had if she had not eaten any out of her pail. They can write out their equation in the box beside the pail on their handout. When they are done, we will compare individual processes as a class. Some may have added the 4 berries eaten to 3 remaining. Some may have added 3 + 1 + 3, leaving off the eaten number of blueberries. We will then discuss why each of these processes work and how the equations relate to the story.


McCloskey, R. (1976). Blueberries for Sal. New York, NY: Puffin Books.

Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards in Mathematics. (2007). Retrieved from Minnesota Department of Education:


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