Along with many educator friends over on Twitter, I’m participating in the August 10 for 10 Picture Book Event. Each participant chooses ten favorite picture books to blog about. You can check out everyone’s picks over at http://t.co/Wutt11U or by searching the#pb10for10 on Twitter.
I have decided to focus on picture books that encourage mathematizing, interpreting and interacting with the world through mathematics. I believe that teaching children how to recognize the math in narrative and the narrative in math is one of our important jobs as teachers. So, here’s my list in no particular order.
1) Ten Black Dots, written and illustrated by Donald Crews
As a big fan of Donald Crews, Ten Black Dots is one of my favorite counting books. One of the reasons I love this book is because it is a great way to explore quantity and how numbers can be broken apart and put back together. “Five buttons can make buttons on a coat…” shows five dots in a vertical line while the next page, “…or the portholes on a boat” breaks five into horizontal rows of two and three dots. I read Ten Black Dots when I introduce my kids to dot cards and describing how we see quantities. It is also a great mentor text for exploring making your counting book with dots.
2) One Gorilla, written and illustrated by Atsuko Morozumi
Morozumi perfectly combines simple text with complex illustrations full of surprising details (that the kids usually find before I do!) that just beg for mathematizing. I love the way the book begins. “Here is a list of things I love. One gorilla.” As the narrator details the animals she loves (which are hidden among each two page spread) the gorilla continues to be a focus, and is more difficult to find on each subsequent page. “Eight fish in the sea. And one gorilla.” This is one of those books where you find something new in the illustrations each time you read it.
3) 1 Hunter, written and illustrated by Pat Hutchins
1 Hunter is a great humorous counting book. Don’t be put off by the hunter with the gun on the cover (I was unsure about this when I first saw it). Each page counts a different kind and different number of animal being pursued by the hunter. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), the animals are savvier than this silly hunter.
4) Mouse Count, written and illustrated by Ellen Stoll Walsh
Mouse Count is a classic, but one of my all time favorites. It is a counting book (forward and backwards to ten) that has a great narrative. A snake finds a big jar and decides to use it to collect mice for dinner. The mice, however, use teamwork and some creative thinking to outwit the snake and “uncount” themselves as they run away. In addition to counting, you and your students can notice the pattern on the snake. In one of my snake-loving classes (They booed when the mice got away!) we ran with the pattern concept, examining pictures of real snakes with patterns and making our own patterned snakes with pattern blocks.
5) Balancing Act, written and illustrated by Ellen Stoll Walsh
The mice are back in Ellen Stoll Walsh’s relatively new (September 2010) book about equality and inequality. I love this book! It is such a great introduction to early algebraic ideas for small people. Two mice make a teeter totter and explore how to balance it. They make discoveries about what is equal and not equal. 2 frogs and 2 mice and 2 lizards are equal to 1 big bird! This is a great way to enter into an exploration of equality with a pan balance. Two tiny rocks are equal to one river stone. Two baby bears are equal to one papa bear. Imagine the possibilities!
6) 12 Ways to Get to 11, written by Eve Merriam and illustrated by Bernie Karlan
This is another great book to explore composing and decomposing number. Begs the question of your students, “How many ways can you make eleven?”
7) Each Orange Had 8 Slice, written by Paul Giganti, Jr. and illustrated by Donald Crews
Another book illustrated by the great Donald Crews, Each Orange is a counting book that focuses on multiplicative thinking. While traditional mathematics instruction does not introduce multiplication until second or third grade, solving multiplication type problems informally is one of the most natural and developmentally appropriate problem types for young children. This book is the perfect for problem solving. “On my way to the playground I saw 3 red flowers. Each red flower had 6 pretty petals. Each petal had 2 tiny black bugs.” Go forth and problem solve.
8 ) Zero is the Leaves on the Tree, written by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Shino Arihara
This book is a poetic exploration of the abstract concept of zero. What does zero sound like? “Zero is the sound of snowflakes landing on your mitten.” What does zero look like? “Zero is the kites in the sky once the wind stops blowing.” This is a book that does not underestimate young children’s understanding. What new ways to describe zero could your young mathematicians find?
9) Stone Soup, written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth
Some of my favorite books for mathematizing are not traditional “math books.” Stone Soup is one such book that, although it was not written with math in mind (that I know of!) begs for problem solving as the characters mix together all the ingredients for the tasty stone soup. I love Jon Muth’s version, but any version of the classic tale will work. Some of the best books for teaching math are ones in which you find math in the daily details of life. And really, that’s what being a mathematician is about.
10) Wait a second! How did a bird get in here! This isn’t a book! Ok, so it isn’t a picture book, but my last pick is a picture from my mathematical life. Sharing our rich mathematical lives with our students is a crucial part of creating a community of mathematicians. We’re telling the story of math in our lives. Here’s a bird who laid egg in my planter. Sharing this with my students they wondered, “How many days until the eggs hatch?” Great opportunity for authentic research and count down. “The bird has already been there for three days. How many more days until the eggs hatch?”
I would love to hear your favorite picture books that encourage mathematizing. What are you reading with your students? What stories are you telling?