“Six” from Trout Fishing in America Study Guide

My World

The song “Six” on My World by Ed Kohn explores all the different ways we can arrive at the answer “six.” The song begins with “What do you get when you add three plus three?” and concludes with a barrage of questions including “Well, what’s 108 million, divided by the square root of 324 times 10 to the minus 6 power?”

The answer each time is a laconic, “I believe the answer is six.” What a great way to think about numbers and number expressions! Use this song to explore the pre-algebra notion of equivalencies.


  • Students will be able to convert math questions to written equations.
  • Students will check the correctness of equations.
  • Students will recognize that the items on each side of an equation must be equivalent.


  • a recording of the song “Six “download MP3)
  • lyrics of the song (download lyrics)
  • pocket chart and sentence strips
  • multiples of = signs and the numeral “6” written on sentence strips and cut apart


  • Listen to the song. Sing along on the response, “I believe the answer is six.”
  • Check the calculations and make sure that the correct answer each time really is 6, to the point at which the math you’ve studied is applicable. That is, if you haven’t discussed cube roots, stop before the question on cube roots.
  • The final question, “If you have a 20-inch wheel on a brand new bike/ And you rode it through the park from dawn till night,/ And divided the times that the wheels go ‘round/ By 5 short ton to the nearest pound?” is not correctly answered by “six,” and in fact has no correct answer. Spend some time discussing this word problem with the class:

    If you have a 20-inch wheel on a brand new bike
    And you rode it thru the park from dawn till night
    And divided the times that the wheels go ‘round
    By 5 short ton to the nearest pound?

    Note that there is insufficient data to determine the number of times the wheels go around, and that this number couldn’t be divided by any number of short tons (2,000 pounds) because the ton is a measure of weight. The number of times a wheel goes around can’t be equal to any number of pounds.

  • Write each question that your class checked as an equation. Write each one on a sentence strip and arrange them on the left hand side in a pocket chart. Put “=” next to each, and then “6.”
  • Divide the class into groups and have each group come up with more equations that can be answered with “six.” as each group comes up with one, have them write it on a sentence strip and add it to the pocket chart. Don’t use duplicates.
  • When the pocket chart is full, check the equations. Then read through them (if time allows, have student volunteers do do) and answer in chorus with “I believe the answer is six.”
  • Have student volunteers move strips from the left to the right hand side, and vice versa. At first, they may choose to move 6 to the left and expressions like “3 +3” to the right. Ask, “Could ‘3+3’ equal ‘7-4’?” Help students see that all the expressions in the pocket chart are equivalent and can be paired in any order with an equals sign between them. The expression on the left must simply express a quantity equivalent to the expression on the right.
  • Finish with a rousing chorus of, “You must be a mathematician!”
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