Math + Picture Books = Fun!

Picture books offer an easy and fun way to introduce children to fundamental math concepts while also exposing them to the world of reading comprehension, literacy, and storytelling. When reading picture books to children, it is natural for the reader to encourage interaction with the book, using prompts and questions. The same is true for those picture books with underlying math lessons. Not only can the reader ask questions about the unfolding story, but also the mathematics occurring as part of the storyline. A five-year-old may not readily recite the Pythagorean theorem after reading The Greedy Triangle (1994) by Marilyn Burns, but she can begin to grasp basic geometry skills from a story that subtly explain functions of mathematics in an engaging and beautifully illustrated way.

Whether it is identifying shapes, understanding time, grasping the concept of number sets, or learning basic addition and subtraction, there are numerous picture books from which to choose. Here are twelve titles, including both classics and brand new, from the library’s collection to get you started:

My Bus (2014) Addition, Subtraction
Written and Illustrated by Byron Barton
"A bus driver named Joe heads out on his route, stopping at one bus stop after another to pick up passengers. He picks up five dogs and five cats in all, dropping nine of them off at the plane, train, or boat. The tenth passenger, a dog, Joe takes home"-- Provided by publisher.

On the Launch Pad (2004) Counting
Written by Michael Dahl
Illustrated by Derrick Alderman and Denise Shea
A countdown from twelve to one as a space shuttle awaits liftoff. Readers are invited to find hidden numbers on an illustrated activity page.

Cluck o’Clock (2003) Time
Written by Kes Gray
Illustrated by mary McQuillan
It's 4 o'cluck in the morning. Another day is dawning....Colin the rooster puffs out his chest. Ready to do what he doodle-doos best. Telling the time has never been funnier, as the hens clock watch from food time until fox time. But there may not be a next time unless Colin and the hens save themselves from the greedy fox.

A Pig Is Big (2000) Measurement
Written and Illustrated by Douglas Florian
What is big? Join Douglas Florian and a decidedly big pink pig as they travel around town, across a continent, and through the universe, taking a look at things that are big bigger biggest! Bulletin Blue Ribbon Best of 2000 Award.

Pigs Will Be Pigs (1994) Money
Written by Amy Axelrod
Illustrated by Sharon McGinley-Nally
Meet Mr. Pig, Mrs. Pig, and the piglets. Here is a family that must add, subtract, multiply, and divide, and think about the way money works in order to satisfy their big pig appetites. Join the fun! Come pig out on math and money concepts with the Pigs!

A Second Is a Hiccup (2007) Time
Written by Hazel Hutchins
Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
There's never been a more charming explanation of time for young readers. "How long is a second?" "A second is a hiccup--the time it takes to kiss your mom, or jump a rope, or turn around." The newest book by acclaimed picture-book creators Hazel Hutchins and Kady McDonald Denton explains units of time in imaginative terms children can understand: A second lasts as long as a hiccup; a week is seven sleeps; and a year is the time it takes to grow into new shoes! Any parent who has been asked, "How long is a minute?" or any kid who has wondered, "What does 'an hour' mean?" will enjoy this smart, simple, and surprising book.

The Secret Birthday Message (1972) Geometry
Written and Illustrated by Eric Carle
It is Tim's birthday. Instead of a package, Tim gets a mysterious letter -- written in code! Tim -- and the reader -- are off, following the clues. And at the end of the treasure hunt is a wonderful birthday surprise!

Teddy Bear Counting (2010) Counting, Geometry
Written by Barbieri McGrath
Illustrated by Tim Nihoff
Count teddy bears from one to twelve, name their colors, and even form three primary shapes--square, circle, and triangle. Then count down to zero as the bears trot away. Back matter includes a review of the counting and math skills presented.

Teddy Bear Addition (2014) Addition
Written by Barbara Barbieri McGrath
Illustrated by Tim Nihoff
Big bears sort, count, and add tiny teddies in this companion book to the popular McGrath Math series. Catchy speech bubbles accompany lively verse as teddies add single-digit and double-digit numbers from one to fifty.

Ten Friends (2001) Addition
Written by Bruce Goldstone
Illustrated by Heather Cahoon
A riotous counting book that ends in a grand tea party for 100 friends. If you could ask 10 friends to tea, tell me who those friends would be. You might invite 9 bears and 1 forest ranger. Or perhaps you would choose 4 divers, 3 chauffeurs, and 3 drivers. Whichever group of friends you count, you will still wind up with 10. But what happens if all of your friends come? Put all the groups together and they add up to a whole lot more than 10--there are 100 friends coming for tea! Rollicking rhymes and cheerful pictures create a delightful introduction to simple addition concepts.

Uno’s Garden (2006) Multiplication, Prime Numbers
Written and Illustrated by Graeme Base
Uno builds a home and garden in the magnificent forest among the playful puddlebuts and feathered frinklepods, but as the place becomes more and more popular, it is overtaken by tourists and buildings until the forest and animals seem to disappear altogether.

The Wing on a Flea (2001) Geometry
Written by Ed Emberley
Originally published [over] 40 years ago, this book uses vivid illustrations and simple rhyming text by a noted author/illustrator to introduce the concept of shapes and sizes to curious young readers as he suggests how they can view the world in a new and exciting way. Full-color illustrations.

- Anna V.
Photo courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt


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