Series: Book Ideas
4 Playful Counting Books That Bring Numbers to Life
Counting books that offer children opportunities to participate bring play into math learning. These books about numbers and counting engage children physically, cognitively, and emotionally —- making them favorites that children will ask to read again and again.
Whether at home or in a classroom, children can create their own artwork in the style of these books. Read on for ideas how to play around with numbers!
1 Smile, 10 Toes by Nelleke Verhoeff
This mix-and-match counting book is clever and won the Mathical Book Prize in 2022! Children can flip the split pages around in any order to make creatures with different tops and bottoms. The silly creatures have 4 ears, 5 feet, and so on. With so many combinations, children will have ample counting practice in a non-routine way.
The book practically begs children to draw their own wacky creatures and talk about how many different body parts they drew. One way to do this is to fold a sheet of paper in half. At the fold line, mark where the creature’s torso will meet from the top and the bottom. Have one child draw the top of the creature and a second child (without looking) draw the bottom. Then open the page to reveal the silly creature! Have children label their creature with the number of different body parts like the book does.
How to Two by David Soman
Numbers words are used as verbs in this counting book. How do you “two?” In this story, a young child makes “two” by finding a friend on the see-saw at the playground and makes “three” by turning one end of a jump rope with another child holding the other end while a third child jumps. Using number words in this novel way may require some conversation, but isn’t that the whole point anyway?!
The illustrations are uncluttered and clearly show the growing set of children playing at the playground. Yet, look closer and there are other representations of the given number on each page. As the number of children increases, readers will have to look more closely to find all the children. This brings the opportunity to discuss number composition and the number relationship of “one more.”
Ask children to draw their own playground pictures and talk about the number of friends they like to play with. Contextualizing numbers within a child’s social-emotional life provides a natural and meaningful reason to count!
Two Dogs on a Trike by Gabi Snyder, illustrated by Robin Rosenthal
What a zany and fun counting book! The narrative is told chiefly through the illustrations, which show a growing group of dogs traveling by wacky modes of transportation. As the number of dogs grows, the jumbled and sometime overlapping arrangement of the dogs might be challenging for young children to count. But, for more proficient counters, finding all the dogs could be part of the fun.
The text is simple. Each page clearly states the number of dogs. But when it comes to books about numbers and counting, there is much to bring children back for repeated readings. The subplot of a cat’s pursuit of the dogs provides humor and adds to the variety of vehicles in the story. This would be a fun book to physically reenact, building both transportation vocabulary and a sense of numbers in a playful way.
Dozens of Dachshunds by Stephanie Calmenson, illustrated by Zoe Persico
More dogs on the move! This charming counting book about numbers shows dachshunds in a town pet parade. The count goes up to 12, building the concept of a “dozen” as a unit. The illustrations of the dogs are distinct and easy to count. The dogs and humans represent a wide diversity, including a girl and a dog using wheeled mobility equipment.
The text is pleasant to read aloud with a rhyming scheme. Children can sing along! There are extra features too that not just any book about numbers and counting will have. The text mentions the total number of dachshunds at the end of the parade (a good problem to have older children figure out for themselves) and there is robust information about the dachshund breed at the end.