Using Children’s Literature to Bridge Reading and Math Learning

One of the cool things about my marketing role at DreamBox Learning is that I come across a lot of information about learning math that I think parents might really appreciate! In fact, it’s a DreamBox goal to be a resource for this kind of useful information. For example, in our recent DreamBox Parent Update we talked about how parents can use children’s books to help bring math to life. Children’s literature can really be a great bridge to help children who love math become more interested in reading, and children who love reading be more interested in math.

Math Through Children's Literature

I recently found a wonderful resource for teachers that may also interest parents who want to not only use children’s literature as a springboard to math literacy, but also to better understand the mathematics curriculum their child is learning at any given grade level. The book is Math Through Children’s Literature: Making the NCTM Standards Come Alive, by Kathryn L. Braddon, Nancy J. Hall, and Dale B. Taylor. The NCTM Standards referenced in the title are the important mathematical concepts children should learn and skills they should acquire, as described by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the primary standards-setting body in the US. The standards cover all the key skills for the elementary grades: number sense and numeration, whole number operations and computation, geometry and spatial sense, measurement, statistics and probability, fractions and decimals, and patterns and relationships.

So while this book is written for teachers, it’s a fantastic resource for parents. There are more than 80 different books described, complete with ideas for activities you can do with your child to relate the math learning to his real-world experiences! So, for example, if your child has made progress with counting but you feel she’s struggling with larger numbers, you can read How Many Snails? A Counting Book, by Paul Giganti, Jr. and Donald Crews, which not only explores counting groups of objects and sorting by characteristics, but also encourages observation, discrimination, and visual analysis.

Or if your child is comfortable with addition and subtraction and you feel he’s ready to explore multiplication, read Bunches and Bunches of Bunnies, by Louise Mathews and Jeni Bassett – a silly, rhyming introduction to the wonders of multiplication as growing numbers of mischievous bunnies do everything from going to school to playing pool!

One last thought: if you think this sounds useful but you’re not sure you want to invest in the book, you can go to Google Book Search and review the entire table of contents, which includes all of the titles according to the curriculum standards they help children learn! Then you can find the suggested books at the library or a bookstore, and decide for yourself which books are right for your child.

  • Becca

    When I was teaching fourth and fifth grade, literature was one strategy I used to connect with kids who had developed negative feelings towards math. Every year, on the first day of school, the first “math lesson” I taught included a favorite book of mine: Math Curse by Jon Scieszka.

    The story follows a girl for a day after she becomes afflicted with the “math curse” (the day before, her teacher stated that everything could be thought of as a math problem). After reading the story, my class shared their ideas about how daily events could be thought of as math problems. My students then wrote their own “math curse” stories. It was a great opportunity to get to know my students, assess their attitudes towards math (and writing!), and it created a culture where we started feeling the afflictions of the “math curse” all the time…

    “Ms. Lewis…we only have 3,600 seconds until recess!”

  • Laura

    My 4 year old son has always loved books and some of his favorites have been books that have strong math connections. One book he particularly enjoyed was Two of Everything: A Chinese Folktale by Lily Toy Hong. It is a story about an older couple who find a magic pot that doubles everything put into it – including them! We’ve had wonderful conversations about what we would want to put into the pot and what we wouldn’t. (He does not want to put his little brother in the pot!) We’ve also talked about a pot that tripled, quadrupled, etc.

    Literature has been a great way to discuss math concepts with my son on his terms. I can let him lead and I don’t have to be “the teacher”. Just like my students in the classroom, I see the best learning happening when it comes from something he is interested in and has some control over.