Small Number Counts to 100

Small Number Counts to 100

                                                 Written by Veselin Jungic & Mark MacLean 
                                                                Illustrated by Simon Roy

The first story, Small Number Counts to 100 was inspired by narration from Ms. Rina Sinclair of the Siksika Nation. The story can be shown to elementary school students as a counting practice/puzzle or as a pattern recognition problem. For high school students it can be a way to introduce arithmetic progressions, modular addition, or an idea of number systems with a base different than 10.


Story Transcript


Group shot of Small Number and grandparents
Small Number is a 5 year-old boy who gets into a lot of mischief.  He lives with his Grandma and Grandpa, who patiently put up with his antics, in a small settlement with 7 tipis arranged in a circle.

Small Number and a skunk

Wanting to take the cat home to show Grandma, he tries to catch it and learns that the black cat is really a skunk.

Skunk spraying Small Number

Smelling strongly from the skunk spray, he runs home to Grandma, who quickly takes him out to wash the smell off him.  As hard as she scrubs him down, she can’t quite get rid of all the bad smell.  


Small Number receiving a bath
Grandma doesn’t want Small Number spending time in their tipi until he smells better, so she decides to set him a task she thinks will take him a long time. She knows Small Number can count to 100.  

Grandma consoles Small Number

She tells him to start at their tipi, which is right beside the entrance to the settlement at the east point of the circle, and to walk around the circle of tipis by first heading south.

Aeriel view of the village

His task is to count the tipis going round and round until he can tell her which tipi he gets to when he reaches 100.

Small Number counts tipis

Small Number starts walking around the circle counting.  He starts at 1 at his tipi, and when he gets back there, he has counted to 8. 

Small Number counting

When he gets to 15 and is back at his own tipi, he stops and sits down. He counts on his fingers for a while...

Small Number counting fingers

...and then runs in to see his Grandma and yells: “It is Auntie Rena’s tipi!” which is one tipi south of his grandparents’. 

Small Number running in with answer

Question: How did Small Number know that the 100th tipi is the one just south of his grandparents’ tipi without actually counting them?

Credits and Acknowledgements

  • Inspired by narrations from Rena Sinclair of the Siksika Nation
  • Special thanks to all participants of the BIRS First Nations Math Education Workshop, Banff, AB, November 22-27, 2009, for their help in starting Small Number’s first adventure
  • Special thanks to Staahtsistayaiki Genevieve A. Fox of the Kainai First Nation
  • Special thanks to Karen Manders, PIMS Communications Manager
  • Financial support provided by NSERC, PIMS, UBC, the IRMACS Centre, and SFU