This Valentine’s Day, give math topics a little love by sharing these books about caring, friendship, family…and chocolate. You’ll find that these books can spark conversation about mathematical ideas and provide a meaningful context for further exploration.
Here are a few picture books for Valentine’s Day that explore love, math, and a love of math.
Lilly’s Chocolate Heart by Kevin Henkes
This Valentine’s classic tells the funny tale of Lilly and her precious, last red-foil-wrapped chocolate heart. She wants to find a safe place to keep it. No location is quite right until she finds that the best place is, of course, her own mouth. This silly story is also mathematical, as it explores spatial relationships in a number of ways. You can have children play their own hide and seek game with a chocolate heart and have it lead to a discussion that uses all kinds of useful spatial words such as above, below, around, and inside. Perhaps a map will help some kids in describing where they hide their special Valentine’s treat?
The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman
This picture book biography describes eccentric mathematician Paul Erdos and his incredible love for mathematics. He was drawn to numbers at an early age, which turned into a life-long love for math and mathematical problems. This colorful and often quirky story incorporates math throughout the text. And it describes his love for his mother, his love for prime numbers, and even his love for traveling in interesting and mathematical terms.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
The beloved tale of Little and Big Nutbrown Hares’ efforts to describe their love for each other is a staple of bedtimes and story times. When Little Nutbrown Hare stretches out his arms to show how much he loves Big Nutbrown Hare, the question of measurement naturally arises. How can we measure love? Little and Big Nutbrown Hare express their love as increasingly far distances, ending with “I love you right up to the moon and back.” Children can make valentine cards expressing their love for family or friends in this way, or calculate the actual distance to the moon and back. Measuring distances around the school or playground is also a way to extend this story into thinking mathematically.
Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert
This traditional Chinese folktale begins and ends with a loving relationship between a granddaughter and her grandfather. As he tells the story of two shape-changing and competitive fox fairies, the use of tangrams is a natural way to have children explore shapes through the ancient fun of tangram puzzles. The eventual concluding friendship between the fox fairies provides a return to the theme of the season, love. If you want to make your own paper tangrams, check out our video on making a set.
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman or A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kaza
This pair of similar stories tells a tale of a child’s loving search for his mother. The connection to Valentine’s Day can be made while the search itself involves thinking about an important mathematical concept: attributes. The characters use physical attributes to “sort