using Counting on Katherine in speech therapy

Frequent Speech Sounds:

/k/ initial
/th/ medial and final (math, mathematician, Katherine)
/sp/ (space)


Black History Month
Women’s History Month

Book Details:

Diverse Characters: Yes
Age Recommendation: Elementary, Late Elementary, Middle School

Counting on Katherine

By Helaine Becker

The bold story of Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA during the space race and was depicted in the film Hidden Figures. You've likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 moon landing. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home? As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps on the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink, everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as she could about math, about the universe. From Katherine's early beginnings as a gifted student to her heroic accomplishments as a prominent mathematician at NASA, Counting on Katherine is the story of a groundbreaking American woman who not only calculated the course of moon landings but, in turn, saved lives and made enormous contributions to history.

This heroic biographical Black History & Women's History Month non-fiction book can be used in speech therapy to address social/emotional issues like segregation and perseverance. It is also great for illustration study and for targeting character analysis, sequencing and inferencing as well as for /k/, /th/, and /sp/ sounds! Discover more of the speech and language teaching concepts for using Counting on Katherine in speech therapy below:

Key Teaching concepts

Narrative Structure:

complete episode
expository text

Narrative Concepts:

illustration study
character analysis
verbs (regular past tense)


order of events that made Katherine go from being a dreamer to being a “star” herself and helping astronauts land on the moon


imagination, yearned, universe, boundless, curiosity, catapulted, segregated, admit, fury, foundations, aeronautics, patience, contributions, force, angle, plotted, reputation, accuracy, promoted, orbit, hero, triumphs, grave peril

Character Analysis:

Katherine works hard to become a women mathematician when jobs like that were hard to come by.


Katherine has to overcome segregation including having her family move to a town where there is a black high school, as well as societal pressures of choosing a job that was not typically offered to women.


verbs (regular past tense)


How did Katherine feel when she was learning new information?
How would you feel if you were a 10 year old in high school?
How do you think Katherine would feel?
How did Katherine feel when she couldn’t go to high school?
What did Katherine think when she heard about the NACA hiring black women as mathematicians?
How did she feel when she had to wait a whole year?
What did Katherine think about doing tasks that men thought were boring and unimportant?
What did the other workers (especially men) think about Katherine and her skills?
How do you think she felt when she got promoted?
Why do you think John Glenn refused to fly until Katherine okayed the numbers?
Why was John Glenn a national hero?
Why did it say she was a star herself?


What do you think Katherine likes about numbers and the universe?
What do you think black families had to do to get their kids into high school?
What do you think Katherine will do for a job when she can’t become a mathematician?
What do you think the women did if they worked as “computers”?
What do you think the curved line will tell Katherine?
What do you think Katherine will do about the astronauts trying to make it to the moon?