Math and More, by Sandy Meagher
Books abound for weaving mathematics lessons throughout the curriculum
Math and reading are staples in elementary school curriculum. Many times, however, teachers and students are unaware of all the wonderful books to complement what is being studied in math class. So many of these books lend themselves to meaningful math projects and tie-ins across the curriculum.
Math made simple
For those of us who need some easy, simple explanations for math, there is Math Dictionary: The Easy, Simple, Fun Guide to Help Math Phobics Become Math Lovers by Eula Ewing Monroe (Boyds Mills Press, 2006). It truly is a user-friendly guide to math for teachers, parents and students. Another super book to begin with is Go Figure! A Totally Cool Book About Numbers by Johnny Ball (DK Publishing, 2005). I like that the author's introduction explains that, "Everything we do depends on math. We need to count things, measure things, calculate and predict things, describe things, design things, and solve all sort of problems – and all these things are best done with math."
Our third-grade teachers have come up with a great program for Fridays called "Math Madness." Students do hands-on math projects, contests, word problems, games, etc. There are prizes, lots of movement, lots of noise...and lots of learning going on. A six-book series that has been useful for this program is "Math All Around" by Jennifer Rozines Roy and Gregory Roy (Marshall Cavendish, 2005). Titles include Addition in the Forest, Number on the Street, Patterns in Nature, Sorting at the Ocean, Subtraction at School and Holiday Fractions. When introducing seasons, Patterns in Nature helped put the digital camera to use. Students photographed different patterns and used the book as their guide. Learning fractions is a big part of third grade, and kids were amazed at the fractions they could find in every holiday using Holiday Fractions.
Another excellent title that lends itself well to hands-on experiments including science and math is Plant Math by Patricia Whitehouse (Heinemann Library, 2002).
We do not have home economics or consumer science teachers in our elementary building, but we do call on these special middle-school teachers for kitchen projects using math. All of us enjoy the results from using I Use Math in the Kitchen by Joanne Mattern (Weekly Reader Early Learning Library, 2006). Students really learn by doing, and when you have to have your ingredients for applesauce, porridge or stone soup measured out, fractions and math are essential. Our Consumer Science teachers love to have their grade 6-7-8 students work with our younger students and they have held food fairs at which they've presented healthy snacks.
All of our teachers love Loreen Leedy's books and a new one is The Great Graph Contest (Holiday House, 2005). Graphs are a part of math that covers all areas of curriculum. This book has a contest going on between two amphibian fiends to see who can make the better graph – not a bad idea to have a contest between classes on graphing student populations or whatever needs to be graphed.
When Sports Math by Kieran Walsh from the series "Math and My World" (Rourke, 2006) appeared, I knew the book would be put to good use. The contents include baseball, football, basketball, boxing, NASCAR, skateboarding, websites and the metric system. Math and physical education certainly complement one another.
The art of math
Our art teacher enjoys incorporating books into her lessons, and tries all kinds of new ideas to stimulate our students. She loves Math-terpieces: The Art of Problem-Solving by Greg Tang (Scholastic, 2003). All of the problems in the book offer an introduction to art history. Famous paintings add such interest to the teaching of art. Greg Tang not only combines creative teaching of math, but appreciation of art. Each problem is in poem form, as well. How about that?
Three books from Teaching Resources that have kept our art and grade-level teachers busy – both in the classroom and in an after-school activity club – were Origami Math by Karen Baicker (Teaching Resources, 2004), Quilt Math by Cindi Mitchell (Teaching Resources, 2005) and Kaleidoscope Math by Cindi Mitchell (Teaching Resources, 2003). Math activities and reproducibles galore are included.
Word plays and pictures
Our fourth- and fifth-grade teachers really like the "Sir Cumference" book series by Cindy Neuschwander (Charlesbridge). The characters' names are truly creative: Sir Cumference, Lady Di of Ameter, the Great Knight of Angleland, Radius. When a fifth-grade teacher had her students act these out, it was laughter and learning personified.
For students who are a little younger, there are times in math instruction when teaching a concept goes very far if a picture book is included. When teaching "a ton of bricks," try using the book Ton by Taro Miura (Chronicle Books, 2006). The wonderful fold-out pages and graphic illustrations will certainly be helpful.
For the fun of it
So, did you ever think math could be so much fun? Trying some of these titles will spur you to cross the curriculum with math. Give it a try.
Sandy Meagher is the Library Department Chairperson and School Librarian in the Wayne Highlands School District, Honesdale, PA.