Author David Schwartz Gives Students a Million Things to Think About

Story and Photos by Cynthia Cheng

According to award-winning children’s book author David Schwartz (davidschwartz.com), a bee must visit 60,000 flowers in order to collect enough nectar to make one spoonful of honey. Such was one of many numbers-related facts Schwartz shared during a mid-morning assembly with Don Callejon School students on May 4.

“I think wondering is wonderful,” Schwartz said to the group. “A lot of my books started with the wondering I did when I was your age. I want children to honor their curiosities.”

Schwartz presented glimpses into a number of his books.  Showing a slide of a coyote blended into the wild from “Where in the Wild,” Schwartz depicted the wonder of camouflaged creatures in their natural environment. Referencing “How Much Is A Million,” Schwartz shared, “If you wanted to count from one to one million…it would take you about 23 days.”


“It’s about some kids in a classroom who are having a snack,” said Schwartz about “On Beyond a Million: An Amazing Math Journey.” “Their snack is popcorn, which they’re popping in this machine. They are having a great time eating popcorn out of the bowl. When snack time is over, they try to turn off the popcorn machine and guess what? It won’t shut off. Soon the bowl fills up and it’s overflowing…And they still cannot turn off that machine. The popcorn is starting to fill up their classroom…It fills the entire school. These kids have a question: ‘How much popcorn do we have?’ They decide they’re going to find out by counting the popcorn.”

Taking out small plastic bags, Schwartz started off by showing students how one piece of popcorn would look and then 10 pieces of popcorn. Eventually, Schwartz whipped out a giant plastic bag that held 10,000 whopping pieces of popcorn, much to the students’ amazement. (In the book, the counting continued beyond this amount.)

“I do this presentation all around the world,” Schwartz said. “Last month, I was in Hong Kong and Thailand. Last Fall, I was in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. Wherever I go, kids from all backgrounds get excited about what I do to make math come alive, such as using popcorn to demonstrate how our number system works. One of my goals is to show that math and books can go together.”

Earlier in the year, Don Callejon School tried to collect a million cents so students could visualize what a million of something looked like. Although the school ended up with an amount a little shy of 40,000 cents, this project still reaped its rewards.

“Marsha Rumley, our library assistant, created a visual of the 40,000 cents we collected from students,” said Michele Taylor, Librarian at Don Callejon School. “What I appreciated about this project is that students from K through 8 would come by the library and drop off their coins into a bucket. That money will go to DCSCO (Don Callejon School Community Organization).”

“I appreciate that DCSCO came up with the funding to bring David here today,” Taylor continued. “I love bringing authors to our school because they make books real. David’s books in particular celebrate and encourage curiosity. Whenever a child reaches for something, I want them to wonder, ‘What if?’ ‘What else?’ and ‘How could I make that different?’”