Here’s an annotated bibliography for some great math resources that one can add to their school’s STEM collection, along with some seeds for teachers/media specialists.
Burns, M. (1994). The Greedy triangle. New York, NY: Scholastic.
A dissatisfied triangle seeks the help of a shapeshifter to try adding different lines and angles to his shape. Introduces geometric shapes and terms such as line and angles. Grades K-2. $5 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-0-545-04220-8
- Lesson on different geometric shapes and their properties (e.g. lines, angles, vertices, etc.).
- Where might we see such shapes around us? Go on a walk around the classroom or school to discover these shapes. As an extended activity, have kids try to find these shapes in magazines and cut and paste them into their math journals.
Campbell, S. (2010). Growing patterns: Fibonacci numbers in nature. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press.
Students are introduced to the fascinating Fibonacci sequence (each new number in the sequence is the sum of the two numbers preceding it) and how this pattern is observed in nature. Connects classroom learning to real life environment. Grades K-5. $12 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-1590787526
- Though the Fibonacci sequence is not usually taught in elementary schools, this could be used as an example in a discussion about different number patterns. Older students can come up with their own examples of number sequences and see if their classmates can come up with the pattern.
- This can also be used as an example of how math can be found outside the classroom. Younger readers can use this book to practice counting. They can also be challenged to bring in objects from nature that display some sort of recurring pattern (e.g. a shell, a pinecone). The class can also take a nature walk in search of these items.
- Teachers can view this video on Fibonacci numbers for more information: http://www.ted.com/talks/arthur_benjamin_the_magic_of_fibonacci_numbers.
- ALSC Notable Children’s Books, 2011
- NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, 2011
Demi. (1997). One grain of rice: A mathematical folktale. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.
In this Indian folktale, a clever village girl, Rani, saves her village from starvation by asking the selfish raja for one grain of rice, to be doubled each day for 30 days. Connect math concepts to real-life problem-solving. Grades 1-5. $16 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-0590939980
- Have student test out the power of doubling on their parents. Provide worksheets where students can first estimate how much money they might amass if (a) their parents were to give them a penny everyday for 30 days vs. if (b) their parents were to double the amount each day for 30 days. Have them work out the different answers, using a calculator if necessary.
- Rani was able to save an entire village from starvation using a simple math operation (doubling). Challenge students to think about other “big problems” that they might be able to solve with simple solutions. Students can work in pairs or groups and present their ideas to the class.
- NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 1998
- School Library Journal Best Books, 1997
- Various best lists
Heiligman, D. (2013). The boy who loved math: The improbable life of Paul Erdos. New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press.
In this picture book biography of Paul Erdos, readers learn about the eccentric mathematician’s childhood fascination with numbers. Detailed information on Erdo’s life can be found in the author’s notes. Promotes real-world connections and development of individual research and learning. Grades K-5. $12 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-1596433076
- Younger students will enjoy learning about various oddities of this math genius (e.g. he never learned how to cook or do laundry).
- Older students can try to spot – and maybe solve – the hidden math allusions and puzzles that can be found in the book. Print out simple math puzzles that the students can solve in class or at home for fun.
- Discuss prime numbers. There is a famous theorem in math that there is always a prime number between any number and its double. Challenge older students to play with some numbers to see if this is true or not.
- The author writes this of Erdos, “He didn’t like rules in life, but he liked rules in numbers.” Discuss with students why this might be the case – whether there are school rules they don’t like (maybe because they seem arbitrary, unreasonable, etc.) – and why Erdos might prefer to focus on numbers.
- Older students can do further research on Erdos or other mathematicians, scientists, artists, etc. who might have lived interesting lives (provide them with a list to choose from).
- ALSC Notable Children’s Books, 2014
- Children’s Books of the Year 2014
- Orbis Pictus Award: Honor Books 2014
- Kirkus Editor’s Choice Children’s Books, 2013
LoPresti, A. S. (2003). A place for zero: A math adventure. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Zero feels like he is nothing, so he goes on an adventure to search for his place in the world. Through his journey, readers learn about special properties of zero. Teaches/reinforces mathematical concepts of counting and numbers, as well as basic operations. Grades K-5. $6 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-1-57091-196-5
- Discuss the number zero and its special properties as mentioned in the book. Have students brainstorm why it’s important.
- Discuss basic operations – adding and subtracting (with younger students), multiplying and dividing (with older students) – and zero’s role in those operations.
- Discuss why everyone has a place in the world and a purpose in life, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Have students discuss times when they might have felt “less than” and how they were able to overcome those feelings/beliefs. Play a game where students say something they think they contribute to the class, their family, their world, etc. For example, “My name is Jennifer. I am an important part of my classroom because I contribute ideas in math!” or “My name is John. I am an important part of my family because I help take care of my pets.”
Neuschwander, Cindy. (1997). Sir Cumference and the first round table: A math adventure. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
Threatened by a neighboring kingdom to go to war, King Arthur enlists the help of Sir Cumference and his family and friends to build a table that would be perfect for strategizing and forming a peace plan. Older students will enjoy the play on words in many of the characters’ names. Teaches/reinforces mathematical concepts: geometry, size and shape; encourages creative problem-solving using math. Grades 3-5. $6 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-1-57091-152-1
- Introduce terms related to a circle, such as circumference, radius, and diameter.
- Have students brainstorm different ways they can draw a perfect circle? Is it possible to do it freehand? With a lid, glass, or another object you might have in the classroom/home? What math instrument can we use to draw a more precise circle? Have students practice drawing circles in a variety of ways, including using a compass.
- More activities and lesson ideas can be found on the publisher’s web site: http://www.charlesbridge.com/client/client_pdfs/downloadables/RoundTableDiscussionGuide.pdf
Schnitzlein, D. (2007). The monster who did my math. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree.
A boy struggling with math takes up a monster’s offer to help do his homework. It all seems to go perfectly until he has to take a test and realize he hasn’t learned anything. A good way to start a discussion on homework expectations/responsibility and math anxiety, and a good choice for reluctant/insecure mathematicians. Grades 1-3. $6 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-1-56145-668-0
- Encourage students to share their honest opinions, fears, and anxieties (if any) about math, but offer ways to cope and see that it can be useful and fun.
- Discuss the boy’s decision to pay the monster to do his math homework. What are the advantages to his decision? What are some consequences?
- Discuss why homework might seem like a chore but is actually important. Brainstorm ways students can make the process less painful. (e.g. Use free time to complete homework at school. Ask questions during class to avoid frustrations at home.)
- Storytelling World Resource Award, 2009
Schwartz, D. (1985). How much is a million? New York, NY: Scholastic.
This classic helps students conceptualize what a large number like “a million” might look like or mean. Provides a concrete way to visualize numbers, compare and contrast numbers. Reinforces concept of counting and cardinality; supports Common Core Standards. Grades K-3. $5 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-0-688-09933-6
- Examine the number “1,000,000”. Have students name as many place names as they can, starting from the ones place all the way to the millions place. How many zeros do you count in the number “1,000,000”…how many more do you have to add to get to a billion or a trillion?
- What are some things that are usually counted by the millions (e.g. stars, number of people in a country, money)? Have students brainstorm while the teacher writes down ideas on the board.
- An educational video for the book can be found on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKkK87E46I4
- For more extension activities, visit http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/how-much-million-discussion-guide
- ALA Notable Book, 1995
- Reading Rainbow Feature Selection
- Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book for Illustration
Scieszka, J. (1995). Math curse. New York, NY: Viking.
A girl wakes up to find everything in her life resembling a math problem and decides her math teacher must have put her under a math curse. Younger students will enjoy the funny (sometimes nonsensical) writing and illustrations and older students will appreciate the inside math jokes and references. Highly humorous and visual format will appeal to reluctant readers/mathematicians; connects math and problem-solving strategies to real-life problems. Grades 2-5. $13 (Amazon) ISBN: 978-0670861941
- Have student write a real-life math problem on a big piece of paper. The teacher can provide guidelines on the type of problem or skill that the students need to incorporate (e.g. something that’s related to a unit the students are working on). Once students have written down their problems, they can move around the room and try to solve at least 3 other students’ problems.
- Brainstorm different real life problems that we can use math to solve. Select an interesting one from the brainstorm session and attempt to solve it with math, as a group. Alter the problem as necessary to fit the students’ skill levels or the unit they are studying.
- What are some ways math could appear like a “curse”? What are some ways math could help in the world? Encourage students to share their honest opinions, fears, and anxieties (if any) about math, but offer ways to cope and see that it can be useful and fun.
- ALSC Notable Children’s Books, 1996
- School Library Journal Best Books, 1995
- YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 1996
- NCTE Adventuring with Books Best Book for PreK-Grade 6, 1997
- Numerous other lists
Tang, G. (2001). The grapes of math. New York, NY: Scholastic.
This collection of math puzzles contains rhymes and colorful illustrations that teach creative problem-solving techniques such as grouping, finding patterns, combining multiples, and subtracting to add. Encourages students to approach math problems using different strategies; aligns with Common Core Standards. Grades K-5. $5 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-0-439-59840-8
- Discuss how there is no one set way to “do math” or solve a math problem. Pose a math problem on the board and have students work independently on solving it. After some individual thinking time, call on students to share their solutions. Discuss their thinking process – whether their final answers are correct or not – and why they chose a certain technique or strategy.
- NCTE Adventuring with Books Best Book for PreK-Grade 6, 2002
- International Reading Association Teachers’ Choices, 2002
- Numerous other lists
Wyatt, V. (2000). The math book for girls and other beings who count. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press.
Students learn different ways math is used in the real world, in tasks such as baking a cake (fractions, measuring), planning a party (basic math for budgeting), making decorations using geometry, etc. Sidebars also showcases different careers that utilize math (e.g. veterinarians, architects, computer programmers, interior decorators, etc.). Connects classroom learning to real-life situations and problem-solving strategies. Grades 3-5. $7 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-1550745849
Yoder, E. (2010). One minute mysteries: 65 short mysteries you solve with math! Washington, DC: Science, Naturally!
This collection of 65 short mysteries provide a fun way for students to develop critical thinking skills and will appeal to even the most reluctant mathematicians. Covers math concepts such as geometry, data/statistics, algebra, and measurement, and connects math to real-life problem solving. Common Core aligned. Grades 3-5. $9 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-0-9678020-0-8
- Teachers can use these as “Math Riddle of the Day” or as a warm-up activity before a math lesson. Can also be an activity choice for early finishers.
- If using as a group activity, have students work individually or in pairs first to develop their solutions, then have them share their thinking with the rest of the class. Talk about how one person might approach a problem differently than another.
- International Book Award, Finalist 2011
Zev, M. (2010). 101 things everyone should know about math. Washington, DC: Science, Naturally!
Using a question and answer format, this award-winning title helps students draw connections between math and everyday life, in areas such as sports and cooking. The book also contains math trivia and history and the simple explanations will appeal to even the most reluctant mathematicians. Connects math topics with real-life problems; Common Core aligned. Grades 3-5. $7 (Titlewave) ISBN: 978-0-9678020-3-9
- USA Book News National Best Books Award, 2011