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"The Enormous Turnip" Math Activities

Updated July 20, 2017

"The Enormous Turnip" is a folk tale most often attributed to Alexei Tolstoy. A large person (or animal, depending on the version) tries to pull a huge turnip from the ground, but he can't do it by himself. He asks others to help, and the victor who pulls up the turnip turns out to be the smallest creature who tried. In addition to literature and character (cooperation) applications, "The Enormous Turnip" lends itself to multiple math activities suitable for children in kindergarten through grade five.

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Size Order

For this K-5 activity, you need paper and crayons or coloured pencils for each child. Tell students to draw pictures of the various characters in the story in order of their size. Teach words that describe size, such as big and little; small and large; big, bigger and biggest; tiny; huge; and enormous. Help students use size descriptors to verbally describe the characters. Teach ordinal position by asking the students who is the first in line, last in line, second in line and so on.


To do this first- through third-grade weighing activity, you will need a primary balance with weights for each group of two or three students, a permanent marker and a turnip for each balance. Number each turnip. Give each group a turnip to weigh. Tell the students to make a chart with the number of the turnip and its weight. Groups should exchange their turnips and continue to weigh them until every group has weighed each turnip. Older students can average the weights of the turnips or make graphs comparing the weights.


You need graph paper and coloured pencils for each student to complete this first- through third-grade graphing activity. Poll the class to find out who has ever eaten a turnip, and of those who have eaten one, how many liked it. Graph the results in two ways. On the first graph, write, "Boys who have eaten a turnip, girls who have eaten a turnip, boys who have not eaten a turnip and girls who have not eaten a turnip" on the x-axis, with the numbers on the y-axis.

On the second graph, write, "Boys who liked the turnip, girls who liked the turnip, boys who didn't like the turnip, girls who didn't like the turnip" on the x-axis, with the numbers on the y-axis.

Estimating and Averaging

This activity is suitable for second- and third-graders. Students need access to average weight charts for men, women, children, dogs, cats and mice. Explain that an estimate is a close guess, based on some knowledge. It is not usually the exact answer. Ask students to estimate the weights of the characters in the story. Explain the process of obtaining an average. Tell them that to calculate the average weight of a man, many men must be weighted to provide a sample. The weights are added together and divided by the number of men in the sample. Help them research the average weights of a man, woman, child, dog, cat and mouse and compare them to their estimates.

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About the Author

Annette Strauch has been a writer for more than 30 years. She has been a radio news journalist and announcer, movie reviewer for Family Movie Reviews Online, chiropractic assistant and medical writer. Strauch holds a Master of Arts in speech/broadcast journalism from Bob Jones University, where she also served on the faculty of the radio/TV department.

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