Why Use Children’s Books to Teach Math?
Using children’s fiction and nonfiction has long been a mainstay of classroom instruction. As teachers we’ve all experienced the richness and creativity that children’s books bring to reading and language arts instruction, and we’ve enjoyed the interest and positive reactions from students when we read aloud to them.
Children’s books can also invite children into the world of mathematics. They spark children’s mathematical imaginations in ways that exercises in textbooks and workbooks often don’t. They help dispel the myth that math is dull, unimaginative, and inaccessible. Students for whom math is their first love learn to look at books in a new way; students who love to read — but for whom math is not "their thing" — are helped to experience the wonder of mathematics in the same way they already enjoy the wonder of books. For teachers who do not enjoy or feel comfortable teaching mathematics, this approach builds on their strengths for teaching reading and language arts and helps bolster their own confidence and enthusiasm for teaching math.
Using children’s books for teaching math lessons is effective for:
- teaching students important and basic mathematics concepts and skills
- motivating them to think and reason mathematically
- engaging them in problem-solving experiences
- building their appreciation for both mathematics and literature
For more than a decade, I've searched for children's books that not only interest children and stimulate their imaginations, but that also are well suited for classroom math lessons.
I now have a substantial collection of favorite children’s books and files of lesson ideas for using the books to teach math concepts and skills. Over the years, I’ve taught these lessons in classrooms, revised them as a result of students’ responses, and presented them in workshops, at conferences, and in articles and professional books. My goal has been to help teachers see that by beginning math lessons with children’s books they can spark students’ excitement about learning mathematics, much as they already do when using books to kindle students’ interest in and enthusiasm for language arts.
I’ve been delighted with the response I’ve received from teachers, and I’m extremely pleased to present the Marilyn Burns Classroom Math Libraries. I sorted through piles of fiction and nonfiction children’s books, drawing from classics to current titles, to put together this collection of quality children’s books. My primary criteria used for selecting books were the quality of their content and illustrations, and the appropriateness of the math content to address important grade-level topics. The result is five distinct libraries with a total of 125 different books and 125 lessons. All of the books at a particular grade are recommended for reading aloud to the entire class and many are also appropriate for independent reading. I hope you enjoy using these children’s books and lesson ideas to help open the world of mathematics for your students.