Math Through Literature

  We love math books at Lyons Academy.  No, not the textbooks, although sometimes those are fun, but I'm talking about the math picture books, of course!  These are great for a math class, a family read aloud or to add to your poetry teatime. This roundup covers a wide range of ages, so I'll try to start with preschool age and get older as we move farther down the list.

1 is One by Tasha Tudor
 Oh, we love this one so much, and it's not just the gorgeous illustrations.  "1 is one duckling swimming in a dish.  2 is two sisters making a wish."  It's hard to imagine a more lovely way to introduce a little one to their numbers. Bonus - this book goes up to 20.

Anno's Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno
We are huge fans of Anno in our home and this book is perfect for the younger set.  The first page has  nothing on it - a barren winter landscape.  This is zero. Then we see one tree, one house, one bird, etc. As we move throughout the year each page has more sets to count.  That's what my son loved about it compared to other counting books.  Of course, I also love the simple, clean pictures that are the trademark style of Anno.

 I warned you of our love of Anno.  This one is so much fun.  The preface encourages you to gather some gems or pebbles in two colors to keep track of the ten little boys and girls that move from one house to the other.  The cutout windows make it even more fun!  Thoroughly engaging and imaginative.  And a great way for little mathematicians to learn the properties of ten.

Countablock by Christopher Franceshelli
 We like all of the books in this block book series (especially the Dinoblock), but this is the one I wish I had when my older boys were learning to count to 100.  It's fun and engaging.  The pictures are so modern and graphic compared to the ones above, which is a fun visual change, too.

One Hundred Angry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes
100 hungry ants are traveling single file to a picnic when the littlest one notices that it's taking entirely too long to reach their destination.  He suggests two lines of 50, then 4 lines of 25 and so on.  This is a fun little tale to teach about grouping for the younger set.

Math-terpieces by Greg Tang
Greg Tang has a great series of books that help build math mastery by teaching a variety of math skills, like grouping, adding to an easier number in order to subtract, and finding patterns.  His books are great fun and we can always find a few at our library.

 This is another great series that is easy to come by at our library and suits a wide range of elementary students.  This particular volume is invaluable for gaining a concrete understanding of place value. When we started 5th grade geometry we revisited Sir Cumference and the first Round Table because it is such an easy way to remember the vocabulary of circles (Thank you, Lady Di of Ameter and Radius).  The Dragon of Pi was also wonderful for this age.  You can find a volume in this series to help make most any math concept come alive!

Demi is another household favorite around here and this one does not disappoint, in fact, it may be our very favorite of the list.  A greedy rajah has hoarded all of the rice while his subjects are starving. A clever girls outwits him by taking her reward as one grain of rice that doubles each day for thirty days.  The rajah quickly goes from laughing to scratching his head as the amount of rice she receives each day is carried out of the palace.  Here are a few pictures of Will figuring out how many grains she received by the end of the month.  He was smiling at her cleverness and his astonishment of how big the number grew!

This is great fun to keep track of the growing number, and will definitely require a pencil and paper as the number quickly grows.  This book teaches !, or factorials.  1 island has 2 countries which each have 3 mountains which each have 4 walled kingdoms.... We used this book last year once my third grader learned his multiplication tables and it was great fun for us all. The fifth grader got in on the action as well.  I won't list any more Anno math books, but we also love Anno's Magic Seeds, which, of course, grow exponentially.

This is our most recent discovery and probably the most difficult to come by since it is out of print, although both Amazon and Abe Books currently have copies. This does a really nice job of visually representing the rather abstract concept of permutations and combinations and opens the door to probability, all with a fun story about Socrates the Wolf and his friend Pythagoras the Frog.

">String, Straight-Edge, & Shadow by Julia E. Diggins
  We came across this book last year while my son was studying Ancient Egypt as a block in Waldorf Grade 5.  This book does indeed explain how the rope stretchers of Ancient Egypt found a way to make perfect right triangles but it starts with even more fundamental geometry.  The first two chapters beautifully describe the patterns and numbers found in nature and man's special sensitivity to recognizing them.  Diggins tells wonderful stories in this book, such as how she guesses that early man figured out how to draw a perfect circle by watching a beast of burden tied to a stake walk around and wear a path into the ground.  This is a book we definitely have on hand for older elementary grades to go with Ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek studies, and even beyond,  but I think the early chapters are a beautiful read aloud for younger elementary age children. 



The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman AND Of Numbers and Stars by Anne Love

 I listed these as bonuses because they don't really fit the same category as the other books.  They don't teach a practical math strategy or encourage you to work out a problem. Both DO provide a very engaging and inspiring story about an amazing mathematician!  We went through a period when my middle son was about 4-5 years old where he requested the Paul Erdos book constantly.  We didn't discover the story of Hypatia until much later, but it's so great to use in a Greek history unit or any day as a family read aloud. There is definitely plenty of value in reading these for older elementary kids, too.

 I'd love it if you share your families' favorites in the comments.


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