Using children’s literature to teach math increases achievement, vocabulary and overall interest throughout the elementary years. It deepens conceptual understanding, triggers extended talk about math, enhances numeracy and reasoning, reduces math anxiety and builds a positive attitude toward mathematics.
In an earlier blog, Dr. Julie Comay explores research behind approaching math through literature and provides simple guidelines to help with book selection.
Below, members of the Robertson Team read their favourite children’s stories that support math learning.
Annos Magic Seeds
The children’s storybook Annos Magic Seeds touches upon a range of mathematical concepts, including simple counting to sophisticated geometric and algebraic reasoning.
Special thanks to Tarunima Mittal for reading this story.
A trickster tale told in rhyme that invites a range of mathematical problem-solving from kindergarten counting to middle school algebra. The children’s storybook Counting Crocodiles explores mathematical concepts, including counting, adding, growing/shrinking patterns, algebraic thinking, skip counting, geometric numbers.
Special thanks to Jordan Morton for reading this story.
How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?
Charlie is the smallest student in his class. But when Mr. Tiffin brings in three pumpkins and challenges the class to determine which contains the most seeds, Charlie and his friends learn that small things can hold big surprises. Students explore addition and/or multiplication, consider the relationship between size and capacity, evaluate data representation, and practice selecting strategies for solving mathematical questions.
Infinity and Me
Invite students to follow Uma’s lead by sharing their understanding of infinity. Infinity and Me naturally promotes rich dialogue among learners by challenging them to find connections between lived experiences and abstract mathematical concepts. Uma’s ideas include many mathematical concepts, such as growing patterns, counting on, decimals, fractions, placing values on a number line, and making predictions based on observations!
Moira wants to invite the entire school to her birthday party, but her parents have set a limit of six guests. When hundreds of children show up, Moira must make quick decisions to feed all her guests! In Robert Munsch’s storybook Moira’s Birthday, many mathematical topics can be explored, such as addition, multiplication, estimation, and optimization.
One Grain of Rice
In this beautifully told folk tale from India, exponential growth gets the better of a despotic Rajah. The children’s story One Grain of Rice contains many mathematical concepts, including algebraic thinking, growing patterns, doubling, numbers and operations, equations, functions. Special thanks to Julia Barrett for reading this story.
One Riddle, One Answer
A princess in ancient Persia poses a mathematical riddle to eliminate potential suitors. This story explores fractions, place value, counting, multiplication and number systems.
Patterning in Lakota Star Quilts
In this modern story of a Lakota family, Shota must save her apartment complex from redevelopment by creating a traditional star quilt. The picture book Shota and the Star Quilt includes potential for mathematical concepts such as patterning, symmetry, number sense, tessellation and proportional reasoning.
Two of Everything
In this folk tale retelling from Korea, a magic pot doubles whatever falls into it, producing chaos and opportunity for mathematical discussion. The children’s story Two of Everything contains many mathematical concepts, including doubling, multiplying, adding, growing patterns, algebraic thinking, functions, equations.
Special thanks to Alisha Talpur for reading this story.
In this tale from China about the origins of tangrams, a ceramic tile is smashed and a powerful leader demands it be put back together. The children’s story Warlords Puzzle contains many mathematical concepts, including spatial reasoning, geometry, squares, tangrams, congruence, mental rotation, puzzles.
Special thanks to Michelle Chin for reading this story.