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Mohammed and the Number Genie

School: High Tech Middle Chula Vista

City/State: San Diego, CA

Grade(s): 6

Format(s): Book: Fiction

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, Visual Arts

Project Overview

This book was written and illustrated by sixth grade students at High Tech High Middle School in San Diego, California. It was an interdisciplinary project, combining math and writing, and was supported by two team teachers. 

This novel tells the story of Mohammed, who struggles with math.  One day, while exploring his grandfather’s attic, he discovers a mysterious golden canteen. A Number Genie emerges from the canteen and offers to help Mohammed with his math homework. She takes Mohammed on adventures around the world where he discovers new places, and learns new math concepts. In one chapter, Mohammad goes to Italy to learn about squares and square roots by multiplying tiles in the plazas. In another, he learns about multiplying and dividing integers by counting clovers in Ireland.

The students were inspired to write their own novel after reading “The Number Devil” by Hans Magnus Enzenberger as part of their math class.  Similar to Mohammed and the Number Genie, each chapter of this book covers a mathematical concept.  After reading a chapter, the students would complete a series of corresponding activities and practice problems created by their teacher. 

To write their own novel, each student submitted a story proposal for consideration for the class.  They used a gallery walk and group discussion to decide on their favorite proposal. Small groups of students worked together to write a chapter. Each were assigned a math concept, and they each selected a country that Mohammed would visit in their part of the story.

Each group worked together to explain their mathematical concept accurately and within the context of the story.  To do this, students went through the steps of the writing process – including pre-writing, drafting, revising and editing until they had a chapter that was ready for publishing.  Throughout the process, they meet with the other groups and as a class to ensure consistency.

This book is one of two produced during this project.  See “Jason and the Matha Lisa” for another example. Both books are available for purchase; contact the school for information. 

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Highlights the power of combing math and fiction writing – it engages the reader in a unique way and allows students to creatively display their content knowledge.
  • Shows evocative and carefully done writing, which accurately captures mathematical concepts.
  • Displays multiple forms of strong collaboration. Students worked in small groups to write their chapters, and worked together as a class to make decisions and create a cohesive story line.  Two teachers collaborated to lead the project.

Relevant Resources

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • With support from peers and adults, I can use a writing process to produce clear and coherent writing.
  • I can write narrative texts about real or imagined experiences using relevant details and event sequences that make sense.
  • I can use correct grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
  • I can maintain consistency in style and tone when writing and speaking.
  • I can use resources to build my vocabulary.
  • I can evaluate numerical expressions involving whole-number exponents.
  • I can locate and plot rational numbers on a number line (horizontal and vertical) and a coordinate plane.
  • I can explain the meaning of 0 in a variety of situations.
  • I can use the distributive property to express a sum of two whole numbers.
  • I can evaluate expressions using the order of operations.
  • I can describe and apply the properties of integer exponents to expressions.
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