The Lion's Share - A Book on Fractions and Doubling

The Lion's Share: A Tale of Halving Cake and Eating It, Too, a 2009 publication by Matthew McElligott, provides an entertaining look at the concepts of fractions and doubling. In the story, an ant is invited to the lion king's dinner party. The other guests demonstrate horrendous table manners. When the king passes the cake, each animal takes half of the cake he is passed. The elephant takes half of the original cake and passes on the remaining half. The hippo takes half of that piece--a quarter of the original cake--and passes the remainder to the gorilla who takes another half, an eighth of the original. The cake continues around the table, each animal continuing to take half, until it reaches the ant who receives a mere morsel.

The tiny creature, embarrassed because he doesn't have enough to share, tells the king that he'll return the next day with a special cake. Each animal, wanting to outdo the next, agrees to bake double the number of cakes his seatmate plans to bring: the ant one, the beetle two, the frog four, and so on.

The book could be read at many different levels. Younger children may want to explore the concept of "half." Older students, particularly fifth graders who are exploring Common Core Standard 5.NF.4, "Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication to multiply a fraction or whole number by a fraction," may use the book with Supplement A9, Multiplying Fractions. In Activity 2, for example, students solve story problems designed to help them think sensibly about multiplying one fraction by another. As an opening or extension to the lesson, teachers might reflect on the halving that takes place in the story, perhaps providing paper squares so that children can investigate the amount of cake that each animal receives:

  • Elephant takes half of the original or 1/2 x 1.
  • Hippo takes 1/2 x 1/2 or 1/4.
  • Gorilla takes 1/2 x 1/4 or 1/8, and so on...

Other mathematical opportunities abound. After students learn that each animal plans to bake double the amount of cakes of the preceding animal, students could calculate how many cakes each animal will bake and the number of total cakes that the king will receive.

Students of all ages will find the story amusing and thought-provoking. Enjoy!


Hello Cynthia. I enjoy your blog!