More Books to Make Math Fun!

Reading recommendations from Dr. Alice Mar

I’m continuing to share some books we’ve used in our house as educational supplements. Last month we tackled reading and phonics. This month we’ll revisit some of my favorite books to use as to show kids that Math can be more than workbooks and flashcards. Whether you have a Math hater or a Math lover, these books should engage them both.

Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett

There are a million counting books out there but this is one of the more entertaining ones. Told in an interactive style, kids count monkeys while also being surprised by random funny animals and characters who show up on each page. Super silly and super fun.

What in the World? Numbers in Nature by Nancy Raines Day

This is a totally different style of picture book, but also a step above the other counting books. Beautifully illustrated, kids are directed to look at different numbers seen in nature. Some are expected (ten toes on a boy) while some are more complex (three parts to an insect’s body).

Zero is the The Leaves on the Tree by Betsy Franco

The concept of zero is more complex and important that is may seem at first. This poetic book looks at everyday examples that perfectly illustrate the concept to kids: zero is the kites in the sky when the wind stops blowing, zero is the bikes in the bike rack on the last day of school. Be sure to check out Franco’s other math poetry books.

Edgar Allen Poe’s Pie by J. Patrick Lewis

This book by a former Children’s Poet Laureate is part poetry collection, part math puzzles and part tribute to 14 classic poets. Better for older elementary kids as many of the poems involve more advanced math concepts like fractions and percents. As a bonus, check out author Greg Tang who has a series of similar poetry/math puzzles, also good for younger kids.

Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy

Math is more than just numbers and this book illustrates that beautifully. Leedy covers all kins of symmetry and gives many everyday examples so that kids can easily see examples in the world around them.

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature by Sarah Campbell

Fractals are a more advanced math concept for most kids but are made easily understandable in this captivating picture book. Photographic examples of fractals (trees, lightening, mountains) demonstrate this complex geometry in an approachable way. An afterword at the end by Yale math professor Michael Frame goes into more details and will further interest math loving kids.

That’s a Possibility by Bruce Goldstone
I’m not sure if this is the only statistics book written for elementary schoolers, but it has to be the best one. Interactive style questions engage even very young readers but more complex concepts will engage older students. Lots of real-life examples (dice rolling and card tossing but also a gumball machine or a teddy bear’s wardrobe) engage and illustrate the concepts.

You Can Count on Monsters by Richard Evan Schwartz
This deceptively simple book is potentially my favorite math book for all ages. On one level it’s a counting book with cool graphics of monsters. On another level it’s a sophisticated exploration of factorization and prime numbers. Its’ a difficult book to describe but absolutely a joy to read.

Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander 
No pi day celebration would be complete in our house without reading this fable of a medieval knight who has to determine the special magical number describing the relationship of a circle’s radius to it’s cirucmference in order to defeat a dragon. It sounds goofy and it is, but also fun. Neuschwander has a whole series of math books about the same characters.

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heligman

Paul Erdos was a Hungarian mathematician known for his work in number theory and for his eccentric personality. This biography introduces kids to a figure they probably haven’t heard of. At the same time Heligman takes a figure that might seem weird or geeky or unapproachable and humanized him in a way that should make kids who don’t like math think it’s a little more cool than they thought before. The illustrations also ingeniously work math into them, for example equations and diagrams that Erdos puzzled over are drawn into the architecture of buildings on one page.

And as a bonus for high schoolers who love math, check out these three books:

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg

Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension: A Mathematician’s Journey Through Narcissistic Numbers, Optimal Dating Algorithms, at Least Two Kinds of Infinity, and More by Matt Parker

The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus: The Mathematics of Christmas by Thomas Oleron Evans