Activity Guide

By Suse MacDonald and Bill Oakes


Numblers presents a series of ten magical transformations using the numbers 1 to 10. The numeral 1 shimmers and stretches to become a seal. A 2 bends, stretches, splits into two 2s, and forms a graceful swan. Brilliantly colored paper collages animate each sequence of changes. Young readers delight in the sharp graphics and imaginative shapes as they count the number of parts in each picture.


Introduce the book:

  • Show the children the front cover of the book and invite them to predict what the content might be.
  • Why does the train have five parts?
  • What is the scribbly stuff? (smoke)
  • What is an illusion? (The train is really numbers disguised as a locomotive)
  • Where did the author get the title?
  • What other words does NUMBLERS remind you of? (Help the students associate the word NUMBLERS with numbers and tumblers)
  • What title would they choose for this book?


Numblers Frontis and Title Page:

Look at the Numblers frontis page. What's happening? The numbers on the left are in an ordered pile which is disturbed by the departure of the 8. As it moves across the page, the 8 takes on color and begins to change its shape, color and size.


Title Page:

The 8 in all its forms has become a pilot and plane.

Discuss the word metamorphosis (one thing changing its shape to become something else). For instance: An 8 becomes the wing on the plane and another becomes the pilot and the front part of the airplane.

Is this an illusion like the train on the cover?

The rest of the book:

When you look at the book now and on future occasions, make the following points as they arise in context:

Talk about the Numblers backgrounds. What are the red dots scattered around the Indian? Should they be there?

What about the white spatters next to the seal?

Notice that some numbers have more than one job. For example, on the frog page one 3 forms the head and the eyes. On the title page an 8 is the pilot and also part of the airplane.

Discuss the textures of the different papers that make up the animals. What are the representations of the animals made of? (crayons, paint, a combination of materials, etc.)

Ask the children if the textures feel like the animal? How about the color?


Write a poem.

  • Ask the children to write a poem about the five 5's that form the locomotive.
  • Look again at the frontis page and the title page. Tell the story of what is happening from the 8's point of view.


Ask the children to make a math problem for each page of Numblers.

  • For example, for the locomotive:
5 X 5 or 5
+ 5


Ask the children to think of metamorphosis.

  • Examples are water to ice, a hard piece of bubble gum into a bubble, lead in a pencil to words on paper, seeds into plants. Have them draw a picture of their idea.

Transform a number into something else.

  • Ask the children to take one number and change it into something else. Use six boxes. Praise all efforts for this is not easy.

Create the locomotive from other numbers.

  • Have the children make their own locomotive illusion from numbers. (six 6's, four 4's, etc.) There are no wrong solutions.

Special note:

Your comments on the use of these materials will be welcomed. Please contact Suse with any thoughts, photographs or results.

This activity sheet is copyrighted by Suse MacDonald and Bill Oakes but may be photocopied for your colleagues and sold only for the cost of printing.

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