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Once Upon a Times Table, by Sandy Meagher

Does curling up with a good math book sound strange? After you've read some of these, it might not!

Carton of a child painting dots

Math, reading and art combine in books like The Dot by Peter Reynolds.
Illustration Copyright 2003 by Peter H. Reynolds. Reproduced by permission of the publisher.

Supporting the math curriculum has turned out to be fun with the wonderful trade books that are available. Many times a math concept can be introduced to your students with a math-related story.

For example, Eric the Math Bear by Caroline Glicksman (Knopf, 2003) tells a delightful story about a bear who loves math and catches a robber by remembering the correct two times tables. When teaching children the multiplication tables, though memorizing is important, the use of a story to introduce the concept makes it much more fun.

From a book to a bake sale
A series from Kane Press does an outstanding job of introducing math concepts through easy-to-read stories. Each one focuses on a single math concept, shows kids how to use math in real-life situations and supports and extends reading skills. One I especially enjoyed was Lulu's Lemonade by Barbara De Rubertis (2000). The math concept was measurement, and the activities included a lemonade recipe. Second graders conducted a bake sale during parent-teacher conferences, with help from parent volunteers. Along with developing skills in measurement, handling money, marketing, artwork and community involvement, the children were also reading. They donated their proceeds to the Community Pantry. I love that kind of learning!

Hands-on math
We have an after-school Math Club for students who need help, as well as a summer math camp for students who need a boost in math scores. A book that the club's leaders have had success with is Tana Hoban's 26 Letters and 99 Cents (HarperTrophy, 1987). The format is great for students to use when working on addition, subtraction and money.

Second and third graders love using the beach balls that have addition, subtraction and multiplication problems printed on them. They toss the ball, stating one of the problems printed on it. The student who catches the ball must give the answer to the problem.

Other great math products can be found at here. We keep our collection of math products in the library to be checked out by teachers, the math club and summer math camp.

Student art work of a flag and ladybug done in dots

Students created art featuring 10 black dots after reading Donald Crews' book, Ten Black Dots.

Dots and riddles
We get the art teacher involved with math, too. Students enjoyed the book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews (HarperTrophy, 1995), then they created works of art that featured 10 dots. Another "dot book," The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds (Candlewick, 2003), has an interesting dedication page: "To my 7th grade math teacher, who dared me to 'make my mark.' " We had terrific discussions about "making your mark."

Older students love to solve math riddles. Lauren Thompson's One Riddle, One Answer (Scholastic, 2001) is the story of a sultan's daughter who loves numbers and devises a plan to find the best person to be her husband – she asks her suitors to solve math riddles. Once students have figured out the book's mystery math, they could write their own math riddles and compile them into a class book.

A professional book I recommend for all teachers is Read Any Good Math Lately?: Children's Books for Mathematics Learning by Sandra Wilde and David Whitin (Heinemann, 1992). So often we prepare to teach math concepts and would like to use a trade book but are uncertain which one correlates. This book does the work for you!

Sandy Meagher is the Library Department Chairperson and School Librarian in the Wayne Highlands School District, Honesdale, PA.