Curious Incident Assignments

To make things a little simpler for myself, I've created a blog where I can post [other people's] assignments for teaching and discussing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. That book is the 2010-2011 Freshman Common Reading at Cal State Northridge. And I am Cheryl Spector.


Illustration from Mark Haddon's Blog. And don't miss Mark Haddon's dogTV!


Use the Archive link to display all these assignments on a single screen (as thumbnails).


The Submit link lets you write your own assignment for posting here. (Subject to my review, just in case.)

October 19, 2013 4:35 pm

Describe Christopher’s plans for the future.

Submitted by See also in this blog.
February 22, 2011 1:50 pm

"Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" Mapping Activity

The student prompt

Directions: Take a slip of paper from the container. It has a map activity to help Christopher Boone locate a campus resource at CSUN. Find the other students in the classroom who have the same map activity that you have. Introduce yourselves, discuss how to find the assigned location, and then go to that place together. You must collect all the information needed to make a map that would help Christopher, and that means you must explore the location yourselves. You will make a map, write up any information that Christopher will need, and include any details you feel are essential to help Christopher utilize that particular campus resource. You will present this information as a group in our class meeting on ______________________. The map must be large enough to be viewed by the entire class during your presentation. The presenters must be well-prepared and have a balanced, informative and effective presentation for the class. You should record the names of your group members and contact information:


The Mapping Tasks

Christopher Boone needs to visit the Botanic Garden at CSUN to complete a report. Find the best way for him to get there from our classroom, draw a helpful map, and explain to him what he should look for once he gets to his destination.

Christopher Boone, a student from Swindon, England, needs the services of the International and Exchange Student Center at CSUN. Find the best way for him to get there from our classroom, draw a helpful map, and explain to him what services are available when he gets to his destination.

Christopher Boone is very interested in astronomy and would like to attend a program at the Bianchi Planetarium on CSUN’s campus. Draw a helpful map for him, along with information about the dates, times, costs and types of programs at the Planetarium.

Christopher Boone has realized that he needs more exercise if he’s going to be an effective student. Draw a map to show him how to find the Open Gym (ASREC) on CSUN’s campus, and explain to him the various programs available, including costs for student memberships.

Christopher Boone has an upset stomach from eating too many licorice laces and Milky Bars. Draw him a map to show him how to get to the Klotz Health Center at CSUN, tell him how to get there from our classroom, and explain the hours of the Health Center and how to make an appointment.

Christopher Boone needs to know what transportation options are available on CSUN’s campus and in the surrounding area. Draw a map to help him learn about train, bus, and shuttle services as well as parking information. Be sure to tell him about costs, where to get tickets, schedules, etc.

Christopher Boone needs to buy food on campus, but, as you know, he has very strong food likes and dislikes. In addition, he doesn’t deal well with places that are crowded or where he is too close to people. Find out what his best options are on CSUN’s campus, given his restrictions, and draw a helpful map to places where he could buy appropriate food, with a brief description of the types of food available at each location that would meet his needs.

Christopher Boone needs to visit the upcoming exhibit at the CSUN Art Galleries. Draw a helpful map to guide him, include information about the times and days of exhibits, and give him some information about the types of exhibits, both current and future, that are available for viewing.

Christopher Boone is having substantial difficulty translating American English terms into his native British dialect, particularly idiomatic expressions. Draw a map for him to guide him to the Learning Resource Center on CSUN’s campus where he can use the services of a tutor to help him write his essays in American English.

Christopher Boone needs to find a study place at the Oviatt Library on CSUN’s campus where he won’t be bothered by people. Explore the various floors of the library, draw a map for Christopher and explain where he can find the quietest and least busy study space and, if appropriate, what the best time would be to study in that place.

Christopher Boone is studying biology and needs to examine specimens at the Herbarium. Draw a map for him, showing how to get there from our classroom, and include information about who is in charge of the Herbarium and how to arrange to see the specimens.

Christopher Boone’s pet rat, Toby, has escaped from Christopher’s pocket and by following his nose, has ended up in the Marilyn Magaram Center where students are cooking something that smells delicious. Draw a map for Christopher to explain how to find the center, and where he should look for Toby once inside the building.

Christopher Boone is fastidious about bathrooms he is willing to use. Find the best restroom for him on campus, draw a map to help him find it and explain why it’s the best choice for him at CSUN.

Christopher Boone is quite good at math and needs to find the Mathematics Department Office so that he can sign up for an advanced exam. Draw a map for him, from our classroom, telling him how to get there, and include the name of the Math Department Chair to whom he should speak.

Christopher Boone needs to register for test-taking accommodations at the Center on Disabilities on CSUN’s campus, so that his exams may be taken in a separate location in order to deal with his specific disability. Draw a map for Christopher, starting from our classroom, and explain to him the process of finding the center and registering for accommodations for his needs.

Submitted by Mary Riggs

December 1, 2010 4:16 pm

Mapping Autism Resources in the Valley

Autism Spectrum Disorder Resources - San Fernando Valley

This pilot project involved students enrolled in Dr. Steve Graves's Geography 107 course and in Prof. Mary Riggs's University 100 classes as part of the Freshmen Connection and SH-PEP at CSU Northridge.

The resulting poster won an Honorable Mention at this fall’s Freshman Celebration.

Students compiled information about Autism Spectrum Disorders and then entered them into a Geography 107 database as a way of learning about mapping.

Here is the Google map showing ASD resources in the San Ferrnando Valley:,-118.474503&spn=0.223659,0.308647&z=12

TinyURL (which is sometimes touchy, i.e., it doesn’t always work—but neither does the much longer link above):

September 20, 2010 3:00 pm
Autism-Spectrum Quotient: Your AQ

Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre have created the Autism-Spectrum Quotient, or AQ, as a measure of the extent of autistic traits in adults. In the first major trial using the test, the average score in the control group was 16.4. Eighty percent of those diagnosed with autism or a related disorder scored 32 or higher. The test is not a means for making a diagnosis, however, and many who score above 32 and even meet the diagnostic criteria for mild autism or Asperger’s report no difficulty functioning in their everyday lives.

September 14, 2010 6:21 pm

Navigating a New Environment: Your First Semester in College

In many ways, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is about being an outsider. Christopher experiences the world very differently than most people do, so he has to learn to make sense of the world in order to function in it. Though the book is told through Christopher’s perspective, a large part of the effectiveness of the novel comes from how we as readers experience the world we know and understand through a consciousness that does not understand it as we do.

The way Christopher must navigate the world each day is not very far removed from how you, as a new college freshman, had to navigate your first semester of college. You likely had some ideas and expectations about what campus life would be like, but in many ways, your survival strategy was likely similar to Christopher’s. For example:

You had to decide whether to trust others, and which people to trust (as Christopher gradually does with the elderly neighbor who tells him about his mother’s affair with Mr. Shears)

You may have had to deal with the betrayal of a loved one (as Christopher does when he discovers that his dad lied about killing Wellington)

You had to rely on others for guidance about socially acceptable behavior and for general orientation in your new surroundings (Christopher relies strongly on Siobhan and his parents; you likely relied on friends, teachers, and orientation leaders)

You may have felt overwhelmed at times and needed to escape to a safe haven (as Christopher does with the stars, the garden shed, etc.)

And hopefully, like Christopher, you had/have a feeling of CURIOSITY about your new environment and confidence in your ability to cope with it, and a drive, despite your fears, to conquer it.

Choose any of the above themes (or another that appeals to you from the novel) and relate how you dealt with it during your first semester in college. Some ideas:

compose a photo essay

write a song or poem (you may turn in an audio or video performance, or written lyrics)

write it down, either in an essay or as a text with integrated visuals (as the book does)

Your finished piece must make it apparent which theme you are responding to, and it must make it clear HOW you dealt with the theme.

(Submitted by Carolyn Darin)

September 4, 2010 4:52 pm

155 Writing Class: Extra Credit Convocation Assignment

Extra Credit Opportunity
Freshman Convocation, September 2, Oviatt Lawn, 6:00 p.m.
Speaker: Holly Robinson Peete

You may earn an extra 25 points by attending Freshman Convocation and writing about your experience. The guest speaker, Holly Robinson Peete, is the mother of an autistic son. She has spoken widely and also written about autism and its effects on her family. This is an excellent opportunity for you to get some background knowledge before we read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – background that may greatly aid you in writing your second major essay in October.

To earn extra credit, submit a 2-3 page essay in which you discuss Robinson Peete’s speech. Include details, examples, stories, and quotes from her presentation to support your discussion. Reflect on what she has shared about her experience in raising an autistic son by including your own comments and thoughts on the topic. Finally, discuss what surprised you, what you learned, and what more you would like to know about autism.

Your essay should be typed in MLA format, Times New Roman size 12 font, and stapled. It is due in hard copy on Tuesday, September 7 at the beginning of class.

August 30, 2010 6:01 pm

One of the things that came to mind when I was reading the book was that we generally assume that the average person with whom we interact is seeing the world much as we do. We speak to one another as if the events before us were solid and easily understood — the reality and truth of it all. But, in fact, it is highly unlikely that we see the same reality — make the same sense of what we see — draw the same conclusions or make the same meaning for a shared experience (we come to each experience with a very different set of conceptual and experiential screens that shape what we see, how we interpret it, and what we take from it).

So, not particularly surprising that we don’t recognize the sameness in the different since we don’t recognize the difference in what we assume is sameness.


Joyce Feucht-Haviar, Dean of The Tseng College at CSUN
2:42 pm

Math in Curious Incident—from a CSUN Mathematician’s Perspective

This year’s Freshman Common Reading book has a surprisingly large amount of eclectic mathematics in it. The book is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" by Mark Haddon, and it is about an autistic boy who thinks in mathematical terms. When he is accused of killing this neighbor’s dog, he sets out to find the real killer. This book is written from his viewpoint, as though it were his diary. Even though I (as a mathematician) feel funny about how the book answers our students’ age-old question of "How can anyone love math?" with "They must be autistic," I have nevertheless spent some time collecting most of the book’s math references. I have tried to include references that some of you can use in your 2010-2011 classes.

1. All the chapters are numbered as prime numbers. The book starts with chapter 2 which confused me until I got to the explanation. There is a paragraph on prime numbers and their importance.

This is obviously addressed early on in the book and most students should be aware of it as soon as they have read the first few pages. I am assuming that they have started reading that book in the first week of the term. You could refer to this in 092 when you discuss numbers and prime factorization.

2. On page 63 there is an explanation for the Monty Hall problem (complete with conditional probability notation if you are teaching Math140).

This one does not fit very well into our curriculum (maybe when you talk about ratios? But that is a stretch). I was asked by the Univ 100 instructor over the summer to explain it to my class and they were very interested and baffled by the result. If you have time on a review day it will take a few minutes to do and the students are probably going to appreciate it.

I’m guessing they’ll get to this part of the book around the second or third week.


3. Reference to Occam’s Razor on Pg 90 if you are teaching Axiomatics to a freshmen class (and good luck if you are).

4. On page 101 there is a graph of frog populations through the years, complete with a population formula appropriate for Math 131/102/103.

You could definitely use that graph as an example. (See illustration below.)

5. On page 136 there is an explanation of inverse proportions. (The author is British and notations are sometimes different. Here he uses the approximation symbol as an equal sign or maybe he does mean that the product is almost constant. You may want to address it.) Christopher is scared of his father and he is leaving home and going to a new city by himself. He explains that his total fear is constant because his fear of being near his father is inversely proportional to his fear of getting closer to the new place.

Appropriate for proportion chapter in 092. I’m guessing reading material for the 4th or 5th week of Univ 100.

6. On pg 146 an explanation of “Conway’s Soldiers.” Link: Appropriate for Math 131?

7. On pg 161 The quadratic formula with some very very high coefficient examples (a=79, b=43, c=2089). Christopher uses it to calm himself down by solving the equations in his head (don’t we all?).

Obviously something you could refer to in 093 chapter 16 and by then they should have finished the book.

8. Pg 203 has some tessellations—for Math 131?

9. Pg 214 (almost the last page): Show that a triangle with sides n2 + 1, n2-1 and 2n (n>1) is a right triangle. Find a counter example to prove the converse is false.

You could refer to this in 092/093: pick a specific n, plug it in, and check the result when discussing the Pythagorean theorem. They probably will get to this point of the book by week 7 or 8.

July 29, 2010 4:50 pm

Using Service Learning to Incorporate the Freshman Common Reading into U100 & CSUN Classes

Note: This version is the text-only version. You might also want to view the flier (.pdf file, 180 kb) and a second poster (.pdf file, 241 kb) for the 2010-2011 service competition sponsored by Unified We Serve at CSUN.

Service learning can be used as a valuable tool in relating a book to the real world. Here are ways for University 100 professors to use service as a medium for incorporating The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time into U100:

1. Service Event: Attend a one-day service event with a nonprofit organization specializing in autism.
2. Awareness Campaign: Incorporate an Awareness Campaign into the Freshman Celebration (Nov. 18 in the Grand Salon).
3. Mini-Competition: create Youtube video for awareness of autism (who can get the most “views”)
4. Synchronized Activity: Whole class wears ribbon/same color shirt for one particular day of the week.
5. Brochure: Create brochure to hand out around campus.
6. Freshman Connection Presentations: Create presentations to deliver in cohort classes.
7. Tabling: Reserve a table on campus through the Matador Involvement Center to hand out flyers to students passing by.
8. Fundraiser: Reserve space on campus through the Matador Involvement Center to ask students to donate spare change.
9. Cultural Report: Students can attend one of the Matador Involvement Center’s Movie Nights Focusing on Autism.
10. Annotated Bibliography of Sources & Services: Create research topics related to Autism; create resources for community to learn about autism support services.


UNIFIED WE SERVE: The Volunteer Program at Cal State Northridge.
Located in the Matador Involvement Center
818-677-5111 or email

July 26, 2010 5:21 pm

Time Log Exercise (U100)

“If you don’t have a timetable time is not there.”

“Time is only the relationship between the way different things change.”
(Curious Incident 56)

On pp. 155-6 of Curious Incident, Christopher includes a detailed timetable of a typical Monday (though he says it’s only an ”approximation”).

As you know from reading “Managing Your Time and Energy” (Ch. 4 in our University 100 textbook), “Succeeding in school, at work, and in life is not just about what you do. It’s about what gets done” (Focus on College Success 78).

This exercise has two required parts:

1. Track your own time for one entire week in 15-minute intervals using categories like the ones listed in the Challenge-Reaction exercise on pp. 83-4. The categories include sleeping, personal grooming, eating, commuting, doing errands, spending time with family, spending time with boyfriend or girlfriend, attending classes, working at a job, doing homework, socializing with friends, watching TV, using a computer for Facebook/YouTube/email, talking on your cell phone…..
You can track your time using a chart, scraps of paper, a private Twitter account you set up for just this purpose, an online calendar, a from from the web….whatever works for you.

2. Evaluate your use of time by adding up the time you spent in each of your categories during the week. If the total is not pretty close to 168 hours (24 hours per day x 7 days in the week), you need to check your math and/or your tracking system. Answer the following questions:
a) What are your top 5 categories as measured by how much time you spend on them?
b) How much sleep do you need? (What do the experts say, and what is true for you?)
c) Match your time chart to your own goals and priorities. Do you spend enough time on things that matter to you? If not, what would you like to change about your time chart?
d) Ch. 4 of Focus on College Success suggests many ways you can improve your use of time. Select any two that appeal to you. For each one, write a few sentences explaining how you could apply it to specific parts of your week-long Time Monitor.

(Exercise developed by Cheryl Spector)