One sure fire way to warm up children’s attitude towards mathematics is to build math activities and lessons out of the books they all love to listen to and read.
Children explore the Big Ideas about foundational mathematical concepts as they interact with math in everyday life. When reading and listening to books, mathematical situations come to life in new and fanciful ways. And, we’re not just talking about books that are explicitly mathematical, since math is often central to the problem and resolution of our favorite stories. So many questions that drive children, such as “Is it fair?”, “Who is bigger/faster/stronger?”, “What will happen next?” are shared by the characters they read about.
But, don’t forget to take the math out of the book! Play with the stories. Act them out and innovate. Ask the what-if questions. Create your own version. This is where mathematical thinking gets creative.
We have collected many lists and activity ideas related to some of the best children’s books we know of, all infused with math concepts. We’ve outlined links below, organized under the early math topics of our website. Use math books for kids to show them how to bring math to life!
Where’s the Math? Books, Games, and Routines to Spark Children’s Thinking
Make math learning both meaningful and fun by building on children’s natural curiosity to help them grow into confident problem solvers and investigators of math concepts.
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Sets are basic to children’s thinking and learning. They are also basic to our number system. Books about sets and sorting can be diverse and get at the core of foundational mathematics. more
A Pair of Socks by Stuart J. Murphy | Exactly the Opposite by Tana Hoban | Five Creatures by Emily Jenkins | Goldilocks & the Three Bears | Is It Red? Is It Yellow? Is It Blue? by Tana Hoban | Opuestos/Opposites by Cynthia Weill | Sort It Out! by Barbara Mariconda | The Button Box by Margarette S. Reid
Number sense is the ability to understand the quantity of a set and the name associated with that quantity. The transition from this innate, informal number knowledge to a conventional understanding of number sense is a major cognitive development that takes place gradually.more
A Million Fish…More or Less by Patricia C. McKissack | Count to a Million by Jerry Pallotta | How Much is a Million by David Schwartz and Steven Kellogg | More, Fewer, Less by Tana Hoban | Two Mice by Sergio Ruzzier | Uno, Dos, Tres/One, Two, Three by Pat Mora
Counting is a part of young children’s daily life, as well as the books they hear. They love to count everything from the stairs they climb to the crackers they eat. more
1, 2, 3, to the Zoo: A Counting Book by Eric Carle | 8: An Animal Alphabet by Elisha Cooper | Anno’s Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno | Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke | Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina | Count and See by Tana Hoban | Count Me In / Cuenta Conmigo by Cynthia Weill | Count! by Denise Fleming | Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell | Fish Eyes by Lois Ehlert | Five Little Monkeys by Eileen Christelow | Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh | Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews
When children focus on what happens when we join two sets together or separate a set into parts, they learn about how quantities change. When they have lots of experience comparing amounts, they become familiar with thinking about differences between sets. more
Balancing Act by Ellen Stoll Walsh | Color Farm by Lois Ehlert | I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Mary Ann Hoberman | One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab by April Pulley Sayre | Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler | Rooster’s Off to See the World by Eric Carle | The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins | Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto | Twelve Ways to get to Eleven by Eve Merriam | When a Line Bends… A Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Greene
Pattern is less a topic of mathematics than a defining quality of mathematics itself. Mathematics “makes sense” because its patterns allow us to generalize our understanding from one situation to another. more
Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr. | I Went Walking by Sue Williams | One Grain of Rice by Demi | Pattern Bugs by Trudy Harris | The Napping House by Audrey Wood | The Waterhole by Graeme Base | Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong | We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past by Jacqueline Woodson
Measurement is any process that produces a quantitative description of an attribute, such as length, circumference, weight, temperature, volume, or number. Measurement is an essentially mathematical procedure that we apply in many different contexts. more
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins | Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni | The Growing Story by Ruth Krauss and Helen Oxenbury | Is It Larger? Is It Smaller? by Tana Hoban | Just a Little Bit by Ann Tompert | Life-Size Zoo by Teruyuki Komiya | One Bean by Anne Rockwell | Penguins! by Anne Schreiber | Splash by Ann Jonas | Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola | Ten Little Fish by Audrey Wood | The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll | Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong | The Line Up Book by Marisabina Russo
Data analysis can be very simple, like making a list of items and writing how many you have of each in parentheses, or creating and talking about a bar graph whose bars are higher for snowy than rainy days in the month of January. more
Anno’s Flea Market by Mitsumasa Anno | Birds by Kevin Henkes | Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes | How Many Snails?: A Counting Book by Paul Giganti Jr. | Missing Mittens by Stuart J. Murphy | One Mitten by Kristine O’Connell George | The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen | Tiger Math: Learning to Graph from a Baby Tiger by Ann Whitehead Nagda and Cindy Bickel | Which Would You Rather Be? by William Steig | Whose Shoes? by Stephen R. Swinburne
Children between the ages of 3 and 6 are more than ready to develop their skills at expressing directions from different locations and understanding relative positions. Math books for kids can be the beginning of a great exploration. more
Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney | Over, Under, and Through by Tana Hoban | Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins | The Secret Birthday Message by Eric Carle | We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt by Marcia Vaughan | We’re Going on a Picnic! by Pat Hutchins | Where Do I Live? by Neil Chesanow
Everything in the material world has shape. In mathematics, the focus is very much on regular shapes, such as the two-dimensional circle, triangle, and rectangle and the three-dimensional solids known as spheres and polyhedrons. more
Block City by Robert Louis Stevenson | Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins | Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert | Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban | A Triangle for Adaora by Ifeoma Onyefulu | Color Farm by Lois Ehlert | Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert | Cubes, Cones, Cylinders, & Spheres by Tana Hoban | Grandpa’s Quilt by Betsy Franco | I Spy Shapes in Art by Lucy Micklethwait | Now What? A Math Tale by Robie H. Harris