read any math lately?

Oct 24, 2009

I have a rather large collection of books that teach math principles as part of the story. I thought everyone did. I thought everyone would know about these books and have an obsession with collecting them and strewing them throughout their homes so that children grow up reading books that teach mathematical concepts and it is just part of their daily life.

I was wrong. Time after time I have had people tell me they have never heard of these types of books. Well, I am here to spread the message far and wide and to share with you our favorites!

I don’t want you to think I am saying working out problems is bad. It is great and we love the Right Start and Miquon Math Programs. However, it is NOT sufficient. I am living proof that a person can get all the answers right and have no clue what it means. I was always in the highest math classes. I took Trig and AP Calculus. I had no clue what I was doing, but I could follow the formula and churn out the right answer and get an A on the test. I want my children to understand numbers and their relationships with each other. I want them to see math in everything. I want them to think like a mathematician. One of my approaches to doing this is to read math with them. To read about inventors and thinkers and creative people throughout time. I want them to know there is a long history of people wondering about numbers and working hard to come up with answers. I want them to have examples to look to if they decide to be a mathematician. I want them to see patterns and possibilities in all the world around them. These books are my early attempts to do just that.

We have not moved up to the next level of books yet, but we are getting there and when we do, I will have a whole ‘nother post on books that are great for incorporating algebra, trig, physics, and calculus in them.

First of all, there are two websites that will change your life and the way you look at math.

They are both fabulous resources for changing your math paradigm and for finding out about wonderful books and ideas to teach math. I have learned about a lot of these books at Living Math or on the yahoo list sponsored by Living Math.

So, here are our favorite books, in no particular order, just off the top of my head as I sit here typing. Some of these are overtly teach math principles, some of them are teaching patterns, time, histories, inventions as a sidelight to the story. Some of them are MUST-HAVES in my mind, some of them are great to check-out from the library. All of them have been beneficial.

Books We Own and Have Enjoyed (okay, I guess I am going to include a few that we don’t own and have checked out from the library)

Spaghetti and Meatballs for All by Marilyn Burns (anything by Marilyn Burns is fabulous! She is the guru of learning and teaching math in creative ways.)

Amanda Bean’s Amazing Dream by Cindy Neuschwander

Sea Squares by Joy Hulme

Sir Cumference series by Cindy Neuschwander

My Full Moon is Square by Elinor J. Pinczes

Inchworm and a Half by Elinor J. Pinczes

Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar by Masaichiro & Mitsumasa Anno

Anno’s Math Games by Masaichiro & Mitsumasa Anno

Anno’s Magic Seeds by Masaichiro & Mitsumasa Anno

Anno’s Hat Tricks by Masaichiro & Mitsumasa Anno

The Warlord’s Puzzle by Virginia Walton Pilegard

The Warlord’s Alarm by Virginia Walton Pilegard

The Warlord’s Messengers by Virginia Walton Pilegard

The Warlord’s Beads by Virginia Walton Pilegard

The Warlord’s Fish by Virginia Walton Pilegard

The Warlord’s Kites by Virginia Walton Pilegard

The Warlord’s Puppeteers by Virginia Walton Pilegard

Mathematicians are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great
by Luetta Reimer & Wilbert Reimer (both volumes are fabulous!)

Arctic Fives Arrive by Elinor J. Pinczes

One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes

A Remainder of One by Elinor J. Pinczes

Senefer: A Young Genius in Old Egypt by Beatrice Lumpkin

The King’s Commissioners by Aileen Friedman

Ten Sly Piranhas by William Wise

The King’s Chessboard by David Birch

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The I Hate Mathematics! Book by Marilyn Burns (currently Blythe’s favorite)

Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest by Steve Jenkins

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins

Roman Numerals I to MM by Arthur Geisart

What’s Faster Than a Speeding Cheetah? by Robert E. Wells

What’s Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew? by Robert E. Wells

How Do You Lift a Lion? by Robert E. Wells

Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is? by Robert Wells

What’s Older Than A Giant Tortoise? by Robert E. Wells

How Do You Know What Time It Is? by Robert E. Wells

How Tall, How Short, How Faraway by David Adler

Math for Smarty Pants by Marilyn Burns

Multiplying Menace: The Revenge Of Rumpelstiltskin by Pam Calvert

Murderous Maths by Kjartan Poskitt

How Much Is A Million? by David A. Schwartz

One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi

The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns

The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth (story of Erastothenes) by Kathryn Lasky

String, Straightedge and Shadow: The Story of Geometry by Julia E. Diggins

The Go-Around Dollar by Barbara Johnston Adams

Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? A Fast, Clear, and Fun
Explanation of the Economics
by Richard J. Maybury (an Uncle Eric book)

The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics by Norton Juster

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss

Can You Count Ten Toes? by Denis Roche

From Zero to Ten: The Story of Numbers by Vivian French

Mummy Math: An Adventure in Geometry by Cindy Neuschwander

What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? A Math Adventure by Julie Ellis

Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick

Along Came Galileo by Jeanne Bendik

Mathematics Illustrated Dictionary: Facts, Figures and People by Jeanne Bendick

Telling the Time by Heather Amery & Stephen Cartwright

Radio Boy by Sharon Phillips Denslow

Julia Morgan Built a Castle by Celeste Davidson Mannis

Too Many Cooks by Andrea Buckless

Striking it Rich: The Story of the California Gold Rush by Stephen Krensky

What’s Up With That Cup? by Sheila Keenan

The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis

Pizza Counting by Christina Dobson

Marvelous Math: A Book of Poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Splitting the Herd: A Corral of Odds and Evens by Trudy Harris

The Great Bridge-Building Contest by Bo Zaunders

How High is the Sky? by Anna Milbourne

How Big Is A Million? by Anna Milbourne

How Deep Is The Sea by Anna Milbourne

My Place by Nadia Wheatley

Starry Messenger by Peter Sis

A Million Dots by Andrew Clements

You Can Count On Monsters by Richard Evan Schwartz – oh my heavens, this one is so brilliant!

The Joy of Mathematics by Theoni Pappas

Great Books for Older Children and Adults

A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe: Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science by Michael Schneider

The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Michael L. Munk

I know I have more…this is just what I pulled off our shelves this week…so I may need to add more books to this post later.

These are books we haven’t read, but I think sound fabulous and I want to get them.

The Number Devil by Enzensberger, Multi-concepts, cute illustrations. Fun classic, very wide appeal, can be read aloud to even very young kids

The Story of 1 by Terry Jones and PBS Home Video – One hour well presented video on the history of the number 1.

Better Than a Lemonade Stand: Small Business Ideas for Kids by Daryl Bernstein

The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures, by Malba Tahan, Chapter book, loosely based on the story of Khayyam

The Ten Things All Future Mathematicians and Scientists Must Know But Are Rarely Taught by Edward Zaccaro

The Book of Think by Marilyn Burns

The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas

Hopefully this will get you started on your own math journey! If you have any questions about specific books, I will do my best to answer them.

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  1. Enjoyed visiting your blog and finding a kindred spirit.

    • tracy

      Oh my heavens! I can’t believe you wrote to me…I am so thrilled! My children LOVE your books…love, love, love them. We have checked them out over and over again. Thank you for writing the Warlord series – it is delightful!

  2. Peggy

    Thank you for sharing this

  3. Thank you for posting this! I think I have some ideas for Christmas now!

    • tracy

      Oh goody! I’m glad so many of you are enjoying these suggestions! Any questions about any of them?

  4. Meili

    Thanks! What a great list. Just what I needed.

  5. jessica

    Bookmarking and adding many to my wishlist!

  6. Tasha

    I was so surprised to read this, because a couple of weeks ago, I decided that my children and I were going to start doing a “math club” every day, and cover different math concepts by playing games, doing activities, etc. I found some suggestions about storybooks about math concepts in one of my home school books, and I got on Amazon and started ordering numerous math storybooks. I think I got a little carried away, but I’m so excited about learning math this way with my children. We received our first book today, and then I read your post and saw lots of the books I ordered on your list! How exciting! Thanks for all the suggestions! Eventually I want to own all of these!

    • tracy

      How funny!!!! Go to and soak it up!


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