The holiday season usually brings with it any number of family dinners and communal feasts. For young children, this is a great time to engage in holiday activities for kids that have math learning centered around food! There are numerous great children’s books about food; we have compiled some with particularly strong mathematical ideas.
I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Alison Jackson
In this adaptation of the classic children’s song, a relative with an abnormally large appetite comes over for Thanksgiving dinner. (Bookshop.org link here) The reiteration of the foods she eats not only adds to the excitement and suspense of the story but also lends itself to the idea of growing patterns (quite literally, in this case!). As she eats her way through course after course, you can encourage young readers to take note of the emerging pattern.
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
After her mother loses her wedding ring while making tamales for a large Christmas dinner, Maria and her cousins determine that the quickest way to find it is to eat their way through all of the tamales. In this book, inevitably this leads to questions of quantity and “fair sharing” as Maria and her cousins set forth to tackle the mountain of tamales in front of them. Donna Johnson has expanded on some more math ideas with this holiday favorite.
So Many Circles, So Many Squares by Tana Hoban
Tana Hoban created a number of picture books that, even without words, exhibit mathematical ideas in the real world. Several of the pictures in this book deal with food and can open up discussions about what shapes children can point out on their own dinner table. For children with a firm grasp on the basics of shape attributes, your discussions can become increasingly precise—a piece of pie looks like a triangle, but can triangles have a curved edge?
Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
This book follows a family as they buy ingredients and cook for a large family gathering. (Bookshop.org link here) Different numbers are associated with each part of the process—one shopping cart is filled with two pumpkins for pie, and three chickens to fry. Young children can be encouraged to connect the numeral to the number of items depicted on each page. After reading, they might try to create a similar story at home involving their own experiences and ingredients.
Ten Apples Up On Top by Dr. Seuss
In this silly story, three animals try to one-up each other by stacking apples on their heads. (Bookshop.org link here) In this act of showmanship, they incorporate a number of important math ideas. The animals add one apple at a time, giving children the opportunity to practice counting and one-to-one correspondence by connecting each number to a specific apple. Their boastful nature also leads the animals to point out who has more, and who has less. Adults can also bring out math ideas such as counting on by having young children determine how many apples there will be if one more is added to the growing pile.