7 Math Storybooks Every Child Should Read, No. 5: A Very Improbable Story
Summer is dwindling, and some children see the first day of school looming towards them. They want to pack in as much fun as possible in their remaining weeks of freedom, but you want to get a little math into their routine. How do we solve this? Read another fun book that kids will learn from and enjoy at the same time.
Read A Very Improbable Story and gain a head start in math
A Very Improbable Story by Edward Einhorn is about Ethan, a boy trying to get to his big soccer match. The only problem is that he has a cat named Odds refusing to get off his head until he can win a game of probability! The amusing storyline and beautiful oil painting illustrations will definitely keep children engaged. Be mindful, though – the content is a bit complicated, and it would be better for kids to be in first grade before they read this book.
This story not only reinforces math concepts, it introduces new ideas with its focus on probability. Going through games choosing socks, sorting marbles, and arranging cereal shows kids how math is applicable to everything they do. And Einhorn included a terminology section at the end that can help your kids learn even more.
Use A Very Improbable Story as a starting point for probability games
Don’t worry, there’s no need to visit the nearest casino. You can create your own probability games right in your own home. Of course, decorating, bringing out the poker chips, and inviting a bunch of kids over to play make the games more exciting!
If your children are old enough, you can try playing any of the classic card games. Some of my favorites are Blackjack and Steal the Old Man’s Bundle. Emphasize probability as you play. For Blackjack, discuss the composition of the deck and how there are more tens than lower numbers because of all the face cards. Have them think about what that means in terms of when they should take another card and when they should stay with what they have. For Steal the Old Man’s Bundle, you could talk about the chances of someone having the same number as the card on top of your pile. You can also modify the game slightly – instead of just matching to the cards on the table, you can collect them if they add up to the number on the card in your hand.
Want to be more creative? Have your child invent his own game that involves probability. It can use marbles, cards, dice, or anything else he can think of. Be sure to have him explain the connection his game has to probability before you start playing!