When children are having difficulty understanding math lessons, math picture books will help. The best math picture books use storytelling and visual expression to explain abstract math concepts and reinforce math skills.
Children who are engaged with math picture books will improve their understanding of a wide range of mathematical principles and skills like counting, addition, subtraction, fractions, and sorting. Stories that incorporate math concepts like symmetry, geometry, patterns, measurements and even telling time will reinforce the problem solving skills needed for math success!
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Counting and Calculation Picture Books
Counting books will help kids build a strong foundation for learning how to calculate. These books also teach addition and subtraction, skip counting, multiplication and division, and place value
Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. I know, it sounds crazy to set up a lemonade stand in the snow, but these young entrepreneurs will not be dissuaded. This book teaches counting, addition and subtraction as well as predicting. Your kids will be singing a catchy little tune, setting up their own stand, and sorting their change by the time you finish reading.
Zero the Hero by Joan Holub, illustrated byTom Lichtenheld. Who knew a math picture book could be so joyful? Zero proclaims himself a hero, but the other numbers just aren't buying it so Zero goes on a mission to prove himself. Kids learn the concept of zero and why it's important. This is a fun book to spend some time over, with lots of clever dialogue and asides in speech bubbles.
The Chicken Problem by Jennifer Oxley; Billy Aronson. I don't mean to sound like a snob (it just comes naturally, ha ha ha) but I didn't know about the PBS show, Peg and Cat, which leads me to the chicken and egg problem... which can first the book or the show. The book... I think? Anyway... Peg and Cat like to solve problems and one day when the chicks get out of the coop, there are a lot of problems -- math problems -- to solve.
Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong, is a fun way to teach about doubling. In this mathematical folktale, a man finds a large pot in his garden. When he uses it to store his purse of gold coins, he discovers the pot’s magic properties. The couple use the pot to increase their wealth and double everything they own, including themselves.
Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. This nonfiction math picture book is an interesting look at numbers in the animal world. Cross-disciplinary learning is one of the most effective ways for kids to explore their passions. Number-loving kids will enjoy reading about animals and nature-loving kids will start to connect to the mathematical world.
How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti, illustrated by Yancey Labat. Kids are fascinated by very large numbers. It can be hard to grasp just how big a thousand is, let alone a million. In the narrative, a couple of kids try to one up each other on the number of jelly beans they will eat. A giant fold out page illustration demonstrates exactly how many they would need to eat should they actually get 1 million jelly beans. (I'm getting a stomach ache just thinking about it.)
How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? (Mr. Tiffin's Classroom Series) by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Students in a classroom learn about skip counting, addition and estimating quantity by comparing how many seeds are in each child's pumpkin.
This Plus That: Life's Little Equations by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace. Sometimes you need a break from concrete mathematical problem solving! This book is not going to teach your kids how to calculate 7 + 6, but it may just help them see that adding things up is bigger than counting. After reading this book, take a break from numbers and come up with your own "lifestyle calculations!"
Each Orange Had 8 Slices by Paul Giganti Jr., illustrated by Donald Crews. Bold graphics turn simple word problems into fun problem solving math calculations.
Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst, illustrated by
Ray Cruz. Money is a terrific everyday tool to teach math and this picture book will help you along. Check out how coins can help with sorting and skip counting! Alexander's grandparents give him a dollar and he has to figure out how to spend it wisely. Sure, there are some outdated items like phone booths, and a dollar doesn't go quite so far anymore, but that's all part of the fun.
Pigeon Math by Asia Citro, illustrated by Richard Watson. Math is fun when it is also hilarious! Citro's clever and wacky narrative follows the chaos that happens when trying to count pigeons that won't stay still. The concept of unstable quantities and may be unfamiliar to kids before reading Pigeon Math, but surely they will want to learn more afterwards!
Geometry and Patterning Math Picture Books
These books about patterns, shapes, symmetry and other geometry concepts are excellent supplement materials for any math lesson at home or in the classroom.
The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns, illustrated by Gordon Silveria. This geometry picture book explores shapes and angles, and is good supplementary material for a classroom geometry unit. A triangle continues to add angles to his "body." His greediness transforms his shape into something new.
Round Trip by Ann Jonas is a fascinating look at reflection and symmetry. The book is meant to be read forwards, then turned around and read upside down. Your kids won't be able to stop studying this fascinating math picture book, examining how the mirrored images created two stories.
Grandfather Tang's Story by Ann Tompert, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker. Tangrams are a wonderful hands on way for kids to learn about geometry. In this story about two shape-shifting fox fairies, kids see tangrams in action and will be motivated to create their own pictures with the traditional puzzle shapes.
Six-Dinner Sid by Inga Mooe is a well-read book in our house. Sid is a cat who has six owners, gets six dinners, has six names and has to go to the vet six times. Patterning and simple counting are seamlessly woven in to the narrative. Kids won't even realize they are strengthening their math skills!
Follow the Line (series) by Laura Ljungkvist is a classic picture book in which a single line creates a multiple number of scenes. While it may not seem like your typical math book, the illustrations reinforce spatial concepts and geometry. Plus, it's just really cool!
Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy is a lovely look at the symmetry all around us, from animals and words, patterns on fabrics, and more. Kids are introduced to the concepts of horizontal, vertical and even rotational symmetry. End notes explain the concept further, as well as give activity suggestions.
Math at the Museum by Group Majoongmul, illustrated by Yun-ju Kim. A family decides to visit a museum where they gaze upon masterpieces and learn the hidden mathematical principles behind their compositions. Numerous famous artworks are highlighted and the book includes hands-on activities kids can explore after reading. Be sure to visit your local museum, too!
MORE: Math Art Picture Books
Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes is a gorgeous introduction to the world of mathematical spirals in nature. Short, charming poems identify both common and mysterious spirals in the natural world, drawing kids into the lyrical text. Be sure to go out for a nature walk afterwards.
Measurement and Telling Time Books
Learning about units of measurements, whether it's length, width, or volume is important for mathematic-based subjects like engineering. Measuring and telling time both require a knowledge of fractions and these books make math learning fun.
Fannie in the Kitchen: The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts of How Fannie Farmer Invented Recipes with Precise Measurements by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. We all know that cooking involves a lot of math, and this book is a nice way to introduce just why math and proportions are important to recipes. There aren't a lot of historical fiction picture books that you can also use to teach math so grab this one!
A Second is a Hiccup by Hazel Hutchins, illustrated Kady MacDonald Denton. In this whimsical rhyming picture book about measurements, Hutchins compares units of time to ordinary human moments, like hiccups, a song, or time spent in pretend play. Kids will no doubt want to measure how long their own actions take to compare to the examples in the book, which would be a fun way to incorporate this book into a measuring unit lesson plan!
An Oak Tree Grows by G. Brian Karas. What's 200 years in the life of an oak tree? This beautiful book helps kids explore long stretches of time, relative size and how the world changes as time passes, even if you can measure by two centuries!
How Long or How Wide? A Measuring Guide by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Brian Gable. Part of the Math Is CATegorical series, this rhyming, humorous nonfiction book is a comprehensive look at measuring lengths. Kids will learn about the metric system and U.S. units of length. The illustrations feature animals using measuring tools to size up and compare items in the world around them. The Math Is CATegorical series also has good math books about time, fractions, patterns and more.
I am collaborating with The Measured Mom on this math education series. Hop on over to get some quality ideas to help kids continue to love math in K - 2 and avoid the "I'm no good at math!" complaint.
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