The Numbers Lesson Plan

Mosaic supplements its print issues with lesson plans developed for high school educators. Each demonstrates how Mosaic’s content can help empower educators to use books, writing, and reading to engage students. The lesson plans supplement most issues of Mosaic. Click here to download.

Few residents of 20th-century Black communities grew up without hearing about The Numbers. While 21st century America gets giddy every time the Mega Millions or the Powerball Jackpot soars into the hundred million (or, as was the record-breaking case in January 2016, cracks a billion), African Americans are traditionally well-versed in The Numbers, the side-hustle of many a striving, struggling Black family.

This lesson plan focuses on two informative accounts on the subject Louise Meriwether’s Daddy was a Number Runner and Bridgett Davis’ The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers.


1. One way to describe fiction is to call it a big lie, but there is truth in the middle of the lie. Think about Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner. The novel is a work of fiction, meaning it comes from the author’s imagination, but it still contains truths. For example, one truth might be that life in Harlem during the Great Depression was hard. Another truth might be that African Americans support one another in community even when times are hard. What might be other truths in the narrative? Write the book title in the center of a piece of construction paper or poster board and draw lines shooting out from the title. On each line, write one truth that Meriwether’s novel reveals. How many truths can you find in Meriwether’s fiction?

2. List all the books you’ve read in the last year. Put a star next to each book where the main character, or protagonist, is an African American girl. How many stars did you get on your page? Look around your classroom and in your school library. Are there a lot of books in your school that have Black female protagonists of any age? Go to a website like Well-Read Black Girl. Are there any books on that website that you would like to read? If so, list them. Create a hallway bulletin board or poster that lists great books with Black female protagonists for other students in your school to see, and create an afterschool book club to read them together.

3. Keep a journal as you discuss Meriwether’s novel and Davis’ memoir. Write in it each night, and include your responses to the literature, how you feel about your classmates’ contributions to class discussions, and your thoughts as you write essays and complete other projects. You don’t have to give this journal to your teacher for a grade or check to make sure you write in it regularly. This journal is just for you. Treasure it.


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