The Case of the Missing Pizza Slice: Literacy with a side of fractions

A couple years ago I stumbled upon this book during a weekday trip to the Ludington Library with my son. It was summer so I was on hiatus from the hustle and bustle of teaching. But like most teachers, I always feel the pull back to my classroom, even when I’m away. I made a mental note to keep the book in mind for our second grade fraction unit the following school year.

Charlie Piechart and the Case of the Missing Pizza Slice

Fast forward a couple years to today. I’ve read this book now with 2nd and 3rd graders and both ages love it. What’s great about this text is that it integrates math with an engaging, meaningful and authentic story. (Many “math read alouds” feel contrived and artificial). My students enjoy it and so do I.

On my most recent go-around, I not only read the book, but had my students create “pizzas” afterwards. One of our third grade standards is “adding multiple fractions with denominators greater than one, to equal one whole.” Using the pizzas as a model served a perfect recipe for this task.

Some of the students’ completed “pizzas” on display in our classroom.

Here’s a quick summary of how to make the pizzas with your class:

Materials needed:

  • One round circle of red construction paper for each student
  • One smaller round circle of yellow construction paper for each student
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Teacher example as a model


Lesson Intro:

I introduced the book early in our fractions unit. I had given a pretest and most students had a basic understanding of fractions, to varying degrees.

Before reading the story, I asked the students to make predictions about “what happened to the case of the missing pizza slice.” We looked at the cover and discussed possible ideas. Interestingly, several students suggested that it might have been the dog, based on the cover. When I read the text in 2nd grade last year, no students picked up on that detail until later in the story.

After we read and discussed the story, we brainstormed different pizza flavors. I included some from the book, such as Hawaiian, pepperoni, veggie, etc. and the students added many other ideas, including egg, bacon, olive, pepper and sausage. Quite a variety of culinary tastes for sure!

Next, I passed out the yellow circles. We practiced folding them once, twice, and finally a third time. This left eight equal pieces and they were quick to point out that the pizza would be divided into eighths.

Soon, they went off to design and bake their pizzas by completing the following tasks:

  • Cutting the slices
  • Designing the pieces
  • Writing the flavor on the back in pencil
  • Writing an addition sentence on a separate strip of paper to demonstrate their understanding of how all the pieces together add up to one whole.



Most students completed the task with little help, however, some needed additional scaffolding. If I were to do the lesson over, I would probably use my pretest data to pull small groups. I would then meet with the “high support” students in a small group to complete the task and let the others complete their pizzas as an independent activity.

Note: If you teach in a math workshop format (as I often do), this could easily be added as a “hands-on” or “at your seat” option.

The end result?

The students enjoyed their pizzas – and the book – immensely. Another slice of veggie please?

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