Magic Emerges from a Cookie Fiasco

Recently, we volunteered to bake 3 dozen cookies for the teachers and staff at my children’s school. After taste-testing between batches, we had our 3 dozen cookies plus three leftovers. While three extra cookies was a treat for Liam, Siena and me, for the characters in this week’s magical math book, three cookies made for one cookie fiasco.

The Book

I didn’t realize until researching this book that Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggie series is done, finished, finito. What?! Say it ain’t so.

Sorry, it is so.  However, you can still get your Elephant and Piggie fix by reading Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat. In this book within a book, Mo Willem’s iconic duo make a cameo as they introduce and reflect upon Dan Santat’s story The Cookie Fiasco. 51nD9s61BPL._SX364_BO1,204,203,200_

A bit about this cookie fiasco. Hippo, Croc, and the Squirrels are faced with a problem: How to share three cookies equally among four sweet-toothed creatures. Will Hippo break the cookies to crumbs before they solve the problem?

This book is a blast to read aloud with its humorous and dramatic speech-bubble dialogue. Santat’s comic-style illustrations expertly capture the fear and frustration that “SOMEONE WILL NOT GET A COOKIE!” For more Santat books, including his Caldecott winning book Beekle. Go here.

The Math

In the story, three cookies are shared equally among four animals. Towards the end, a solution is revealed when Hippo breaks each of three cookies into four equal parts (i.e., each cookie is broken into fourths).  This results in 12 equal-sized cookie positions, namely 12 (1/4-cookies). Each animal gets three of these one-fourth parts of a cookie. The three fractional quantities that came up in our discussion were 1/2, 1/4 and 3/4.

To practice and/or extend the ideas in this book, alter the number of cookies and/or numbers of animals in this situation.

What if you had five cookies and want to share them equally among four animals? What about 6 cookies? What about 100 cookies? (Although not really a fiasco now, maybe stomach-ache fiasco) What if you have three cookies and five animals?

The Magic

Before reading this story or baking our cookies, I asked Liam (7 years old):

If you have 3 cookies and want to share them equally with 4 people, what would you do?

L: I would split one of the cookies with my best friend so we would get 1/2 a cookie.

Me: What if you need everyone to have the same amount?

L: [Thinking] Oh yeah. I would give everyone half and there would be one cookie left. So you could split that into fourths and give another fourth each.

I asked Siena (5) the same question after we were left with three cookies from our baking for the school cookie walk.

S:  Just make more cookies. (A totally valid solution. )

Me: What if you can’t. What if you only have three cookies?

S: You can’t do it.

On my suggestion, she drew the picture below. Note how she splits the last cookie vertically in four pieces.

The letters stand for Mom, Dad, Liam and Siena (the baby gets no cookie love:( )


Me: How do you know that these are equal? [Pointing to the four piece cookie.]

S: You just cut it that way.

[Smiling, I leave this here and make a note to revisit.  While it is possible to make fourths this way, it takes more to explain why they are equal parts.]

At the end of the book, a cow enters with three glasses of milk.

Love. This. Cow.

Me: What should they do? [Smiling. Here it comes. They are TOTALLY going to apply what happened with the cookies. Spoiler: They don’t. No worries…magic results.]

S:  [Pointing to the cow] He should just make more milk.

Me: Yeah. But what if he couldn’t. [Which is true, unless he is a she. Although I didn’t think about this in the moment:)]. Could you split the milk equally?

S: No.


S: No. You can’t chop them in half like cookies.

I realized that these situations (milk and cookies) are more different than I first realized. (e.g.,,The milk is a liquid and cookies are a discrete object that can be cut. Also, to split milk, you need another cup.)

What followed: We went to the kitchen and got out the cups and measuring tools.



They both found ways to split the milk (we used water) equally, but more importantly, as they measured and played while comparing and measuring liquids I realized what a lovely, simple activity water play is for talking math with my kids. Thanks to Dan Santat and his milk-serving cow!

Although, we did almost have own cookie fiasco. The day our donation cookies were due we woke to 3 dozen rock-hard cookies. [Remember, Me≠Baker so… I thought those green plastic cookie keepers would keep the cookies fresh overnight. Silly me.] Off we raced to the grocery story in search of replacement cookies.

Our “ridiculously good” replacement cookies

Sprinting through the grocery store aisles, Siena kept repeating “This is SO hilarious.” And so, just like Hippo, Croc and the Squirrel’s cookies, our rock-hard cookies were no fiasco. We ended up with a hilarious story about that time we sprinted through the grocery store before school to buy replacement cookies. And magically, we made it to school on time.

Santat’s Cookie Fiasco is a math book magic cookie keeper. Click here if you’d like to purchase from Amazon: Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! The Cookie Fiasco

Have a magical math book you’d like share? Please go to the Shared booklist to find out how.  If you’d like to receive these magical math book posts each Monday, be sure to follow this blog in the side bar of this page.

Thanks and see you next Monday! #mathbookmagic


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