Hopefully I’ve been able to show you with this series of math book lists that reading about math can be fun. This final list is the series designed to appeal both to kids who have a particularly affinity for math and to show kids who protest, “I hate math!” that not only is math all around us, it is utterly fascinating.
These math picture books look at a wide variety of more advanced concepts, from fractals to factorials. They are good for the upper elementary grades and even up to age 12. Even though this week, Anna at The Measured Mom and I are sharing our final installment in our series about how to raise kids who love math (Tip: DON’T say “I’m not good at math.” EVER.) I hope you’ll stick around, because we do a lot of fun math activities at our house. We are even working on a new math art project to show you soon. (Note: covers and titles are affiliate links.)
More math book lists for this age:
Math Curse. This was the first book my son’s current 4th grade teachers read to the class at the beginning of the year. They even had a small take home writing assignment based on the book about how math is all around us. (Side note: I love my son’s teachers!) The narrator of the book starts to think of everything in his day as a math problem. The book is very silly but still manages to include a lot of different math concepts, like Fibonacci numbers, fractions and probability.
365 Penguins is a huge, oversized (you’d need that for so many penguins, right?), very funny French import. A family receives an anonymously delivered package containing one penguin. But that’s not all. The penguins keep coming. The household runs amok! The family tries various strategies to keep the penguins under control, from grouping them, to piling them in cubes, all the while sneakily introducing mathematical calculations. This book is incredibly fun, even if your kids are not ready for the kind of math it introduces so big kids and their younger siblings can enjoy it together. I also recommend Oops!, by the same author-illustrator team, that relies on a chain of choas to tell a hilarious tale of disastrous consequences.
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos. A picture book biography of a successful mathematician is a great way to inspire your kids. I confess, I did not know who Paul Erdös was before I read this book. Paul Erdös was an eccentric, but very sociable mathematician who traveled the world spreading and sharing his love of numbers. Heiligman does a great job of integrating math concepts into the writing and the end notes include some historical background and mathematical explanations. Another great picture book biography is Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci.
The Rabbit Problem. Yes, indeed! There is such a thing as a pop up math book! I love this fun book. Fibonacci + Emily Gravett = a match made in heaven. Although the idea that rabbits actually reproduce according to the Fibonacci sequence is not entirely accurate, it is nevertheless a fun way to explore rapidly growing numbers. Although the math concepts may go over the heads of the very youngest kids, they will love studying the humorous illustrations of numerous bunnies! The book ends with a terrific pop-up page. If your kids are interested in Fibonacci, be sure to check out our Fibonacci books for kids list.
Infinity and Me. I was sure that this book was on one of our favorites of the year lists, but I couldn’t find it. We loved this book. We usually think of using art or stories as a “gateway drug” to math, but some kids (like my older son) respond to math as the “gateway drug” to art and creativity. My son does not have difficulty understanding the concept of infinity. To him, it’s perfectly logical. This book, which ponders how we can relate to infinity in both universal and personal ways has absolutely gorgeous artwork, incorporating the sign for infinity in unique and creative ways.
Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature. This is the only book on the list which reads like a nonfiction book rather than a story book. I checked it out because we really loved another photography based book, Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature by the same author. Like that book, this one is gorgeous and a great choice for kids who may really love biology and nature but aren’t sure how math plays into that. There is information about Benoit Mandelbrot, the man who gave fractals their name, as well as an activity to make your own fractal (Watch this space! We will be doing this soon!). I recommend this book for all ages, even adults. (Actually, adults will find most of these books fascinating!)
Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar. Anno has several math books my son loves and I’m just going to go ahead and put all of them on this list! I’ve taken math classes up to calculus and so I am always surprised when there are children’s books which introduce concepts I don’t know about. (There are several of those books on this list!) This math picture book demonstrates factorials (sorry, you have to read the book to find out what that is – no fair Google-ing it) in a clever, easy to understand visual way using a magic jar. Side note: any number which is written with an “!” appeals to my innate appreciation for dramatics so I am pretty much in love with factorials, as is my son.
Anno’s Magic Seeds is another story about the power of doubling and multiplication. A wizard gives Jack two seeds and explains that planting one will keep him well fed. Jack plants one and the seed doubles and then doubles again, etc. One year Jack decides to plant both seeds. You can imagine what happens. I like the way the narrative progresses over time. Jack gets married, he has more mouths to feed; he also has to start over when the harvest fails. As in his other books, Anno’s illustrations, and the way he groups numbers so kids have a visual understanding of the geometric progression is very effective.
Anno’s Hat Tricks. Why yes, there is a picture book that teaches binary logic in a creative way. I bet you didn’t know that. (I confess, I didn’t even know what binary logic was. Don’t worry. My son has now explained it to me.) The narrator uses 3 hats — 2 red and 1 white — and shows the reader how to use binary logic to solve the question, “What color is the hat on you head?” I like the way the narrative voice speaks directly to the reader (child) and even includes him in the story. The narration grabs you at the beginning of the book and it is impossible to resist participating in the hat trick game.
One Grain Of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale. Mathematics and Morals together! Any story that revolves around math is a big hit with my older son and any story that teaches the importance of kindness is a bit hit with me. A selfish raja keeps all the rice to himself during a time of famine, despite his promise to share with his people. However, he offers a young girl the choice of either 30 days worth of rice or the option of doubling the amount of rice each day starting with only one grain.
A Very Improbable Story. Probability can be a surprisingly difficult concept to understand but this silly math story effectively introduces the concept. One morning a cat lands on Ethan’s head. He refuses to alight until Ethan performs a series of probability calculations. It sounds like a silly story, and it is, but my son really enjoyed it.There is a thread in the Amazon reviews that claims the story has inaccurate math, and even the author weighs in, but I will admit it is way over my head. You can make your own judgements but it is safe to say that my son’s understanding of how probability works was not harmed by this book.
Books are only one way of helping your older elementary kids, and middle school kids to love math. Be sure to visit The Measured Mom to get her advice how how to make math fun for 8 to 12 year olds.
See the entire series!
- Math books for babies and toddlers
- Math activities for babies and toddlers
- Math books for preschoolers
- Math activities for preschoolers
- Math books for kindergarten to 2nd grade
- How to make math fun for kindergarteners through 2nd graders
- Math books for 8-12 year olds (you’re reading it!)
- Make math fun for 8-12 year olds (and beyond!)
How do you make math fun for your kids?