About the Holiday
National Math Storytelling Day was established in 2009 by Maria Droujkova, founder of The Natural Math Community at Naturalmath.com, and her daughter to encourage people to share the joys of math with children through stories and games. Having fun with math is one of the best ways to get kids excited about learning and working with this most important subject. Celebrate today with math stories that involve patterns, spatial relations, quantities, logic, puzzles, and numbers. You can even sing math songs and tell math jokes! You’ll find lots of resources for Math Storytelling Day and every day on the Natural Math website.
How to Code a Rollercoaster
Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Sara Palacios
Pearl and her robot Pascal are ready to enjoy a day at the amusement park. Pearl can’t wait to ride the Python Rollercoaster, and after she buys her tokens she decides to map out the perfect day at the park. With so many games and rides to line up for, Pearl thinks using code—“a set of instructions that computers understand”—will be the best way to go about it. She has ten tokens for the day, and can keep track of how many uses and has left “by using a variable,” which is like a “container…that holds information.” Pearl names her variable MyTokens, and they’re off and running. (Lucky for Pascal, robots ride for free!)
When they get to the Python Rollercoaster, the line snakes far into the park, so they head for the Ferris wheel. Pearl loves Ferris wheels and thinks once around isn’t enough. Each trip around costs one token, so Pearl codes a LOOP to “subtract 1 token from MyTokens” each time they “start a new ride.” After three times around, they get off and consider checking out the line for the Python Coaster again. But what will they do if it’s still too long? Another variable can solve that problem.
This one Pearl names ShortLine. She gives it a value of true or false and uses “an if-then-else to decide what to do next.” So, “IF ShortLine is True THEN we’ll ride the Python Coaster ELSE we’ll do something fun on the map,” she explains to Pascal. When they get to the rollercoaster, ShortLine is False and the line is still long, so they ride the log flume. Pascal reminds Pearl that they have six tokens left. They check the IF-THEN-ELSE again and again and again and take a trip on the train, play a target game, and twirl in the teacups.
After a stop at Reshma’s ice cream stand and a delicious treat, Pearl and Pascal check the Python again. Finally, ShortLine is True. But it takes two tokens to ride and Pascal tells Pearl she has only one token left. Just then Pearl sees a sign offering a way to win a free token. All they need to do is find special stars around the park and figure out a secret password. Pearl knows she can use another variable to solve the puzzle.
Pearl and Pascal retrace their steps and find the stars along the way. But the letters don’t spell anything. Suddenly, Pearl understands that they need to put the “letters into the correct sequence to figure out the secret password…just like how code needs to be in the proper sequence to work correctly.” Once they know the password, they’re psyched for the thrills and chills of the Python Coaster.
Back matter includes Pearl and Pascal’s Guide to Coding, which gives more information on the terms found in the story. A foreword written by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, invites readers to learn more about the organization and welcomes children to the world of coding.
To kids’ delight Josh Funk’s Pearl and Pascal are back in another coding adventure—this time at the Gigaworld Amusement Park. They’re excited to ride the Python rollercoaster, but the super long line gives them a chance to code a day of fun in the rest of the park. Young coders and would-be coders will love joining these two best friends on favorite rides as they learn procedures that make programs run smoother and help determine various outcomes. Pascal is as literal as ever, leading to some funny moments of misunderstanding. Funk also includes some nods to his computer programmer day job for eagle-eyed readers. Pearl’s enthusiasm for using code to navigate the park is infectious and will entice kids to explore the world of coding either just for fun or as a future career.
You can almost smell the popcorn and hear the squeals of joy emanating from Sara Palacios’ pages as Pearl and Pascal run through their day at the amusement park. From the Ferris wheel to the log flume to the teacups and the midway, Palacios’ colorful and action-packed illustrations put readers in the center of the fun. Through Pascal’s display function, Palacios clearly labels the variables, values, and loops used during the day as well as the token countdown that leads to the secret code scavenger hunt. Readers will definitely want to return to the first page and read the book again to find all of the lettered stars themselves.
Pearl’s passion for coding and Pascal’s responsiveness is sure to inspire children to explore the wonders of coding and computer science. As part of the Girls Who Code program, the book is especially designed to encourage girls to get involved in computer programming and STEM. How to Code a Rollercoaster is a rousing choice for home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.
Ages 4 – 8
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0425292037
Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find a treasure trove of resources on his website.
To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Math Storytelling Day Activity
Totally Cool Mystery Phrase Math Puzzle
There’s no mystery to how fun math can be! Use the numerical clues in this printable Totally Cool Mystery Phrase Math Puzzle to discover a hidden message! Add the numbers under each line then use that number to find the corresponding letter of the alphabet. Write that letter in the space. Continue until the entire phrase is completed.
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