Using Picture Books in Math

Using picture books to teach math is an enjoyable way to expose students to authentic math situations, build vocabulary, spark imaginations, encourage critical thinking and build confidence in math. Reading and discussing a quality math picture book is not only engaging but serves as an excellent math lesson. You may use math literature to introduce a new math concept, solve math problems, encourage meaningful discussions and springboard writing ideas and math center activities. There are numerous wonderful and exciting math picture books for almost every math topic. Here are activities for some of my favorites!

Apple Countdown 

Summary: Twenty students went to the farm on a field trip. The story counts down objects from 20 to 1. This is an engaging counting book.

Activity: The students created a countdown about themselves. Students could create a countdown starting anywhere from 5-10 depending on writing skills.


Measuring Penny 

Summary: A girl is given the assignment to measure something at home in a variety of different ways. So the girls chooses to measure her dog Penny. This book is an excellent introduction to measurement and all the different ways there are to measure things.

Activity: The students brought a stuffed animal to school to measure in a variety of ways.


The Greedy Triangle 

Summary: The triangle gets bored with being a triangle so he keeps adding a new side to become a square, pentagon, hexagon, etc.  This book is great for learning the names of the pentagons and seeing the different shapes used in the world around us.

Activity: The students created and labeled polygons with toothpicks and marshmallows.

Twelve Ways to Get to 11

Summary: The story shows many combinations of  two or three numbers which add to eleven.  This book is perfect to use for counting practice as well as addition practice.

Activity: The students each made a page for a class book “Ways to get to 13”. Of course you could make pages showing ways to get to a variety of different sums.

Pigs Will Be Pigs: Fun with Math and Money  

Summary: The pigs are searching their house to find enough money to go to the Enchanted Enchilada for dinner. This book is great to practice counting coins and bills.

Activity: The students used the Enchanted Enchilada menu from the book to plan what they would purchase for dinner. This activity could also be done using menus from local restaurants.

Each Orange Had 8 Slices

Summary: This book is a great introduction to equal groups. There are several equal group puzzles throughout the book.  Each orange had 8 slices and each slice had two seeds. How many seeds are there?

Activity: Students wrote and illustrated their own multiplication word problems using the format from the book.


Fraction Fun

Summary: This book shows several ways fractions are used in the real world. This is a great introduction to fractions.

Activity: The students wrote and drew about fractions in their lives.

A Remainder of One

Summary: This engaging book is about 25 bugs marching in the parade. First they march in two rows of 12, then 3 rows of 8, then 4 rows of 6 and each time poor Joe is the remainder. Final they march in 5 rows with 5 in each row and that includes Joe! This is a perfect book to introduce division.

Activity: Students created thumb print bugs in rows and wrote an equation about the bugs. 

The Fly on the Ceiling

Summary: This is the fictional story of Rene Descartes who invented the Cartesian numbering system by figuring out how many times the fly on the ceiling landed on the same spot on the ceiling. Then he decided to use his grid to organize his belongings in his house. This fun book can be used as an introduction to coordinate geometry.

Activity: The students created coordinates for some of their belongings.

Sir Cumference and the First Round Table

Summary: Sir Cumference married Lady Di from Ameter and they had a son named Radius. In the story Lady Di help the king create his first round table, so in honor of Lady Di the king names the distance across the table Diameter, half the distance Radius and the distance around the table Circumference. This is a great book to help students remember these math words. There are several sequels to this book.

Activity: The students illustrated and wrote the definitions of the circle words.