Blog Post

Five Favorite Children’s Books on Math to Read Aloud


by Nancy McGivney, Senior Educational Services Specialist, CORE

Here we are confined at home with our little darlings wanting attention while we want to keep their learning happening. One of the best ways to be close to our children and further their learning is through Read Alouds. A Read Aloud is exactly what it says: read a book aloud to your children. As a number wonk, I’m inclined to choose kids’ books with math in them. Here are five of my favorites that come highly recommended based on ample experiences with my granddaughters.

My highest recommendation is for 7 Ate 9 by Tara Lazar. It’s a detective noir set in a city of numbers and letters, full of puns and math references on every page. Its main character, P.I. (Private Investigator, not our math symbol ∏), is hired to protect 6 who is sure 7 is after him (of course, 7 follows 6 in counting!). After reading the story, one sees how much numbers and math terms are used in our regular conversations. Be prepared to be asked to read it over and over again. It’s written for children ages 6–9, but even adults will groan and love the math puns.

Next on the list is Sheep Won’t Sleep by Judy Cox, illustrated by Nina Cuneo. It’s about a poor little girl who can’t sleep. Counting sheep doesn’t work, so she tries counting other colorful animals—alpacas, llamas, and even yaks. She uses skip counting to count the animals, counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s.  After her bedroom gets way too crowded and noisy to sleep, she must count backward by the same skip counting to get rid of them. The story provides lots of practice counting forward and backward with skip counting, building children’s number sense. Each animal has colorful patterns of dots, stripes, and plaids that lend themselves to discussions about patterns—another important area of development in learning mathematics. Many math lessons are rolled into a fun diverting story that doesn’t seem like a math lesson. The book is written for kids in grades K–3, but adults will also be drawn to the illustrations and whimsy of the story. Be prepared to be asked to read this one repeatedly.

Absolutely One Thing by Lauren Child is a great book for those with young siblings. The stars of this book are Charlie and Lola, who are promised that they can pick one thing at the store. Of course, precocious Lola wants specifics about what she can pick. Can they have one thing each or one thing to share (ay-ya-yi—fractions?)? But no, it is clarified, they can have one thing each (whew—whole numbers!).  Older brother Charlie has to scurry little Lola along to get to the store on time (math with time), as she stops to count everything along the way (more numbers). Lola brings her own style of counting and labeling of numbers, which is so endearing to readers but annoying to reasonable Charlie. This book came alive with my granddaughters as we were all certain it was written with their personalities in mind.

Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light is billed as a counting book. However, its detailed illustrations and map of the settings also develop some good visual-spacing lessons. The main character is on a quest to find his missing and elusive dragon. The dragon leads him around town. A little like a Where’s Waldo motif but much more beautifully designed. Be prepared for a discussion on each page to make this picture book experience meaningful.

The last book on today’s list is Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank. This is a board book for younger children, but it is still entertaining for children in grades K–1.  In the story, Mama takes Baby to the market. Little Baby collects many items to eat but also puts more items in Mama’s bag unbeknownst to Mama. This is not an outright counting book but does have lots of counting in the story. Little ones love it. My littlest granddaughter based her recommendation of this book as her favorite on how yummy all the food looked!

All five of these books are available on Amazon or perhaps on your local library’s eBooks list. Enjoy your time at home with our most valuable resource—our little ones. Keep counting and wash your hands!  Please share your favorite math books in your comments below. Math for all!!

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