The connection between math learning and literacy learning is strong. In fact, some studies suggest that early math knowledge is a greater predictor of later reading than early literacy is.
It’s not a competition though. Let’s do both.
With a great collection of mathy picture books, you’ll read and do math together. Here are some favorites, most of them available at your local library. All links are to bookshop.org, where you can support local bookstores with a purchase, and where you can grab all the information you’ll need to find the book at a different bookseller or the library.
Ten Black Dots: A great one for the little ones (2–5 years old). All of Donald Crews’s books are lovely, but this is perhaps the mathiest of them. One dot can be the sun or the moon. Two dots can be the eyes of a fox. What can three, four, or five dots be? Of course there is a natural follow up activity—draw your own dot pictures to see what other surprises are lurking in collections of dots.
Sometimes We Do: Omo Moses does beautiful work with justice and youth empowerment, and most recently has focused on supporting children and families in math talk. This book is part of that effort, and shares the joy of math talk in everyday life. “Some days are Daddy days,” and some of the best of those involve making pancakes.
Anything by Tana Hoban: Hoban’s ability to see—and then to help us see—math in the everyday world is inspirational. Her photographs are simple and beautiful, often with a bit of humor and surprise. Shapes, Shapes, Shapes and Exactly the Opposite are great starting places.
This Equals That: Another photography book; Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin make similarities appear, disappear, and shift in surprising and funny ways. Putting into words how each pairing is alike, and predicting what feature might be the focus next is delightful fun. [Evidently, this book is not available through bookshop.com; link goes to the publisher instead.]
The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: Amy Alznauer and Daniel Miyares collaborated on this beautiful new book. It tells the story of the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan’s childhood, we see the joy and wonder of a mathematically curious mind (and how school isn’t always the best place for fostering these characteristics).
Hello Numbers! What Can You Do?,: I haven’t yet had a chance to read Edmund Harriss’s new counting book, but i know his work and am very excited to get my hands on it. I’ll report back once I have my copy.
Which One Doesn’t Belong? and How Many?: Inspired by, and in community with, the work of those above, and of so many more, these are books I wrote to support children and caregivers in delightful math talk that invites divergent and creative thinking. Bookshop.org is a great place to buy these books, but I’ll sign your copy if you order it here.
Finally, here are two fabulous sources for more mathy picture books:
Mathical: An annual award for story books that support children’s math learning, issued by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute.
Math Book Magic: A blog by Kelly Darke, an author, math teacher, writer, and friend of mine with great taste in math and stories.