Jan 07, 2024

Working Together, a Math Gnome Story by Melisa Nielsen

One day King Equals decided he needed a new counting tower. The old one would be donated to the kingdom to expand their library. The king looked far and wide for a contractor to build this special tower. Another king recommended Sir Enufstuff and after talking to him, the king decided to hire him.

“Sir Enufstuff, I have my four best gnomes to work for you. If you work with them together, the project should be built quickly.”

“Thank you King Equals, but I have my own ideas about staff. I will use your gnomes but not together. They will each have different shifts and you will see that I will far exceed your expectations.”

The king wasn’t sure, as he believed many hands make lighter work, but he trusted the other king’s recommendation and allowed Sir Enufstuff to begin.

Sir Enufstuff called the four gnomes together. Plus, Minus, Times and Divide. They tried to explain to Sir Enufstuff that they could move mountains together but he would not listen. Instead he scheduled them to four different shifts, assigned them each a different wall to complete and told them what he expected of their work each day. Their duties were to decide how many bricks each wall would need, make the bricks and assemble their wall.

Working the first shift was Plus. His jolly chubby self got busy trying to decide how many bricks he would need to make. He kept having trouble because when it came to deciding those types of problems, he always had his friend Divide at his side to help. Plus tried counting them out, so he began working with the mud and clay to make his bricks. Soon, he had hundreds of bricks but still no idea if he had enough. He needed Divide. He tried to tell Sir Enufstuff, but got yelled at and sent home for the day.

The next shift was Divide. He was pleased to see that there were so many bricks made and he went to work. He felt a little strange though, he was always sharing with Minus so his division would come out equally. Without his friend, he just kept building and building. At the end of the day he had a wall, but it wasn’t very stable. Why? How do you build a stable wall? Do the corners need to interlock? Divide left his shift frustrated. The wind was picking up and he was tired.

Through the night, the wind got stronger. The wall that Divide built came tumbling down. Sir Enufstuff was very angry. He did not want to look silly in front of the king.

Minus came to work first on the second day. He saw the mess of the tumbled down wall. He was in despair. Sir Enufstuff got more angry and told Minus to get to work making new bricks. Minus tried to tell him that brick making was not his best job, Plus was great at brick making and asked that they could work together.

“NO!” Shouted Sir Enufstuff. “I have never worked in teams and I am not willing to start now. You do not need each other. Do it on your own.”

Minus began to cry. He tried to make bricks during his shift but none of them turned out right. They all crumbled while drying in the sun. He was so sad that he didn’t notice that his shift was over and that it was Times’ turn.

Times arrived and felt sorry for Minus. She tried to help him with his bricks, but the whole time she knew that she worked best when Plus was with her gathering bricks and Divide was there telling them how many to make. Minus always worked well on the corner joints.

At the end of the day, the four gnome friends gathered together for some sweet honey sandwiches. They talked about Sir Enufstuff and how hard he was to work for. They all expressed wanting to do the job appropriately for the king. They came up with a plan. They called the king’s messenger and asked if he would write a note to distract Sir Enufstuff for the next day. The messenger agreed.

The four gnomes arrived the next morning at the building site and got to work. Plus began making the bricks, Divide began deciding how many they would need total, Minus was ready to work on his corner joints and Times helped with the building as the bricks were dried and ready to use. By lunch time, the gnomes had most of the building done. By dinner, it was complete and they began cleaning up.

Just then, Sir Enufstuff, frustrated to have lost an entire day’s work to the king’s messenger, arrived. He saw the completed building. He ran to get the king.

“Your Highness, see, what did I tell you, I completed your new counting tower in record time.”

“How is this possible? There was a wind storm that knocked down the only completed wall just two days ago.”

The gnome friends then walked out of their completed tower. “Oh my dear gnomes,” said the king, “how ever did you get my tower together so fast and so beautifully?”

In unison they said “TOGETHER! We worked together!”

Plus said, “Your highness, the plan of Sir Enufstuff just would not work and he would not listen to us, so we made a plan of our own. We are sorry that we tricked him, but we didn’t know any other way.”

“Tricking isn’t nice, but I am very pleased with another wonderful building project. You are very talented gnomes,” said the king.

King Equals turned to Sir Enufstuff and said “I know that you don’t often complete projects by working with others, but you can see that working together opens your eyes to new ideas and your heart to more friends. We would like it very much if you wanted to stay with us for a while and learn our ways.”

Sir Enufstuff agreed to stay, he was humbled. After many months with the math gnomes, he learned many things. He began to understand that life is so much more fun when we can work together.

For more on the Four Processes read this blog post here and visit our curriculum here.

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