Yes, I’m obsessed. But honestly, it’s a case where the way my kids learn and the way I want to teach happily coincide. They always want to hear “living” math books. I always want to read them. They retain the information reasonably well and, best of all, they’re completely open to hearing about new math concepts through math story books. Here’s a few that we’ve been reading recently:
You Can Count on Monsters by Richard Evan Schwartz
This is such a unique and unusual little book. I was a bit blown away by it when I first saw it. The style is bold and colorful with really weird monsters. It was clearly created on a computer with a graphics program. The first dozen or so pages introduce the idea of prime and composite numbers and give kids some basic ways to think about them. Then, each number from 1 all the way up to 100 gets a two page spread. If the number is prime, then it gets its own monster, with some characteristic that indicates the number (you have to hunt to find it for some of them). If the number is composite, it gets a factor tree, dots arranged to depict it and the prime monsters from its factor tree playing together in the picture. Or, as in the image above for fourteen, you get a funny configuration of the monsters together (that’s seven eating two). There’s no text after that first introduction so it’s not really a story, just a fun little book. Mushroom and BalletBoy really liked going through it and I think it’s one we can do again when they’re doing more multiplication and division than they are now.
Animal Babies Math series by Ann Whitehead Nagda
We haven’t done all of these books, but we have done several of them now. Each title features an animal baby in a zoo (a panda, a tiger, a polar bear…) and a math topic (subtraction, division, time…). The format is very interesting. On the left page, it tells the story of the animal’s growth in math terms. On the right page, there’s a narrative account of the animal’s growth. I really like that the books have that extended narrative since it makes them good for reading aloud. I also appreciate that the books give different ways of thinking about topics. For example, in Panda Math: Learning About Subtraction from Hua Mei and Mei Sheng, the book introduces several different algorithms for subtracting different types of numbers as well as different graphic representations. The numbers presented in the book gradually get harder to deal with as well. The focus is obviously on applied math in these books. They aren’t my favorite fun math books, but they’re good and Mushroom is especially fond of them.
Youth Math Books brought to you by the 1970’s
I’ve mentioned these books a few times. You can find a good list of them at this site, which is apparently mostly defunct but still maintains some good book recommendations. We discovered a new cache of them at the library (our library rotates much of its children’s collection because it’s so large) and have been reading a few more of them. These books introduce all kinds of math concepts, including a few that are typically thought of as more complex, for elementary age children. They’re are sadly out of print, but you can find many of them through your favorite used book sources. This time around, we especially enjoyed reading Less Than Nothing is Really Something by Robert Froman, which was about negative numbers. I also really like Base Five by David Adler. To me, these books, along with Miquon and a pile of Cuisenaire rods, represents the best that (old) new math had to offer.