Adventures in Reading: Picture Books that Will Inspire a Love for Math
Oct. 7, 2021
There is no question about it, picture books are enjoying something of a golden age. So much so, that multiple sub-genres have begun to emerge, where you and your child can wander off and explore to your hearts’ content. In a previous post, I offered a list of fabulous wordless picture books, and in this article, I suggest some picture books that are focused on Math.
Some of the books are covertly about Math, others are stories that happen to weave in Mathematical concepts. These books make wonderful bedtime read-alouds, are great for introducing or consolidating Math concepts, and are totally awesome for any time.
One Grain of Rice by Demi
This is an Indian folktale about a very clever little girl who makes a simple request of the Raja. Thinking her request is very modest and easy to grant, the Raja agrees to give her one grain of rice the first day and double the amount he gives her everyday for the next day for thirty days. The Raja discovers, too late, that he underestimated how much rice that would turn out to be. Your child will see the concept of exponential growth demonstrated in a child-friendly way. Lots of other math learning will happen incidentally.
Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford
The author of this book asked children in grades 1 and 2 what they thought about when they heard the word infinity. Their answers inspired this book. The narrator in this story is a curious child who discovers that infinity is kind of a complicated thing to think about, so she enlists the help of others around her to help her picture what infinity looks like. In the end, when she finds a satisfactory answer, is the most heartwarming place.
Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese
Not much is known about the life of Leonardo Fibonacci, but he is considered to be one of the mathematical greats. This imagining of his life also introduces the famous rabbit problem, the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio, all in an interactive, child-friendly way. At the end of the story, there is a guide that prompts you to look for the gems that are hidden in the illustrations throughout the book. The ability to find patterns (number patterns or otherwise) will serve your budding Mathematician very well for years to come.
Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman
As your child gets older they will discover the place spirals have in math, and they will no doubt remember snuggling up to a book that didn’t seem to have anything to do with math at all! Unless they already read Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, in which case they will very much see the connection. This lovely book presents spirals like you’ve never seen them before. Make this a scavenger hunt to find as many spirals as you can.
If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith
This book teaches percents in a very simple way yet profound way. If the world were a village of 100 people, how many would speak English, or have access to clean water? It’s a book that is as much about numbers as it is about social justice.
Greater Estimations by Bruce Goldstone
You guessed it, this is the sequel to Great Estimations, a fun way to introduce children to strategies for estimating. Where the first book focused on smaller numbers, this book goes mega (go with the one that’s appropriate for your child’s age). With each turn of the page, get your child to estimate quantity, size and distance. The variety of things that are up for estimation helps your child to develop the habit of looking for patterns in all kinds of places.
Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag
Written in 1920, and one of the few picture books to win the Newberry Award, this is a story of an old couple who got the cat that was just right for them out of hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions, and billions and trillions of cats. This book is satisfying to kids who are curious about what comes next on the place value chart. Also, it’s a great book to follow Greater Estimations because it plays with large quantities, loads of repetition gives it a playful rhythm and also makes it fun to read for beginning readers.
A Second is a Hiccup by Hazel Hutchins
The concept of time can be daunting to grasp. This playful picture book uses familiar and joyful things to help children understand just how long a second, hour week, month or year is. Written as a poem, and illustrated with vibrant colors and charming drawings, this is a memorable and fun read.
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander
No list of Math picture books would be complete without the Sir Cumference adventure series. As you would expect, the books involve quests, castles and punny names. In this particular title, Radius, the son of Sir Cumference sets out to bring back a cure for his father’s illness. On the quest, he discovers a magical number that applies to all circles.
Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong
An adorable couple finds a pot that has magical powers. Everything that goes into the pot is doubled. On top of teaching the concept of doubling, this is a great book for imagining “what if…?”
Reading Math-focused picture books to your child is a fun and gentle way to enrich your child’s understanding of math concepts.
The article has been prepared by Jacqueline Smith, Kids Academy's author.