Focus on Math

Helping children become mathematicians!

Books! Books! Books! The Literature Connection February 3, 2012

Recently the Literacy Support Teacher in our district and I (the Numeracy Support Teacher) joined forces and did a workshop for teachers. Much of what we did that day connected literacy and mathematics through the use of picture books. I am sure that many of you are aware of some great books to use in math lessons, but I shall share some of my favourites here (in no particular order).

Marilyn Burns’ book Spaghetti and Meatballs for All is a classic and can be used in a number of ways in the classroom. It is particularly useful for playing with the concept of perimeter as tables are rearranged to accommodate guests coming for dinner.

Amanda Bean’s Amazing Dream by Cindy Neuschwander is a charming story about a girl who loves to count, but learns that multiplying is a much faster way to count things in rows or groups. I have read this book to many different classes and followed the reading by a multiplication word problem, usually at a “challenge” level for the students. They multiply by using what they know about numbers (breaking them apart, using repeated addition, etc.) to build an understanding of multiplication.

One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes is another classic. It is, in fact, one of the first literature books I ever used in my classroom years ago. It makes use of factors of 100 to divide the ants into even rows, and is a great introduction to factoring.

The Right Number of Elephants by Jeff Sheppard should not be missed. It uses rather fanciful situations and describes the right number of elephants needed to fit the bill. For instance, “When you go to the beach with all of your friends on a very warm day and you simply must have shade, the right number of elephants is 8.” I love reading this book to young children (K and/or grade 1) and then following the story with an activity in which each student thinks of a situation and the right number of “something” for that. For instance, children have written and illustrated these: “the right number of pets is 3” (since she had 3 pets); “the right number of pencils in a pencil box is 5”; “the right number of shoes is 2”. It is a great way to talk about numbers all around us.

Measuring Penny by Loreen Leedy is the perfect book to use to introduce a measurement unit. In the book, Lisa’s homework assignment is to measure something, and she chooses to measure her dog, Penny. The wonderful thing about this task is that there are so many attributes to measure and thus many units of measurement are explored (standard and non-standard, metric and imperial). Students will want to go home and measure their own pets!

If your students are learning about angles, circles, and circumference, you will want to read them The Librarian who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky. This book tells the story of how Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth more than 2000 years ago. His calculation was correct within 200 miles, or 99.2% accurate — pretty good for being done in a very “low-tech” manner, don’t you think?

These are only a few of the books I love using with students. I’ll post more of my favourites later. In the meantime, at the side of the blog you will find an “interesting link” which will take you to a site filled with scores of possibilities for using literature in your math class. It is definitely worth your time to explore the list there.

Happy Reading.
Mathematically yours,


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