Story Books For Low-Anxiety Math
Tell Me a (Math) Story
Young children often want to listen to the same story books over and over again. When the story is chock full of reasoning activities and contains math problems to work through on nearly ever page, that "again and again" can be a valuable learning experience. If a student doesn't understand a particular concept the first time it is presented, they may well understand it after a few readings. Everything from even and odd to two step word problems becomes easier with familiarity.
Story books also lower the emotional barriers that children put up when they experience math failure and math frustration at an early age. When they are engrossed in the adventures of characters like the trench coat clad kitty problem solver, Professor Guesser, they don't care that the character's problems are math problems.
Enter math story books! All in all, they are among the best tools I've found for engaging reluctant or frustrated math students. On this page, I will share some of my favorite math story books and some tips on getting the most out of them.
The I Love Math Series
Children I know have found the Time "I Love Math" series particularly rewarding. Each book contains multiple stories and activities where math plays a crucial role. Primary grade students might meet a group of kids who need to figure out clues to earn their capes and tights and become part of the (Go! Go!) math patrol or a rabbit who has been caught stealing vegetables from a garden and can only be released if his friends can solve three problems. Tabby Professor Guesser is a regular feature. Additional problems are posed through speech and thought bubbles and in small text at the bottom of the page. The inside front and back covers have game boards for additional practice with math concepts.
A favorite of children. Read the adventures of Professor Guesser, problem solver extraordinaire. Play an addition game on a pizza game board -- right on the inside cover of the book.
Tips for Using the 'I love Math' Series
Do you use a math text or worksheets? You can use them in conjunction with this series of math stories. Spend some time perusing your "I Love Math" books and use the stories to prepare children for upcoming challenges. Look for concept correlation between math themes in the storybooks and math themes in upcoming chapters. In other words, use the stories to help children "get their feet wet" when it comes to difficult ideas.
Share the dialogue in the speech bubbles and discuss the concepts that appear in small text at the bottom of the page. Walk your child through the steps as needed. An example: at the end,of the title story of "How do Octopi Eat Pizza Pie", children are asked to determine if there are enough pizzas for everyone in line and, if not, to tell how many more are needed. This was very challenging to one little boy that I work with -- the first time around. He needed to be walked through the process of counting the people in line, counting the number of pizzas the octopus/ baker was holding and finding the difference. After he had heard the story a couple times (over a period of time), he hadn't memorized the answer, but the steps had become very automatic to him. He was doing a two-step word problem -- long before the official curriculum asked him to.
Some problems are harder than others. Don't push, but hope your child gets it second time around.
Sir Cumference - An engaging math story book for intermediate students
Sir Cumference is the knight of math adventure. Here a children's librarian reads "Sir Cumference and the First Round Table" which highlights geometry and problem solving. There are a number of other topics covered in this intriguing series.
Many students have experienced anxiety around math. What's the reason for this? It can have different causes. Of course we're all better at some subjects than others, and we're more likely to experience anxiety around the ones we find difficult. How we're taught, though, can also have a big impact. We learn things more easily if the content seems relevant to our lives -- this isn't just a matter of psychological motivation, but of brain chemistry. Often math problems are presented as complex procedures that don't connect to the real world.
Have you or your little ones experienced math anxiety -- and if so what do you think is at the root of it?
What do you think has caused the math anxiety?
Connecting Math and Literature - Teaching/Tutoring Resources
From an online math story book to recommended reading lists, here are some tips for integrating math and literature.
- Suggested Books, Grades K-8
Instructional resources from Massachusetts Schools.
- Online math chapter book.
Online math chapter book with problems -- from a fun website for grades K-3.
- Lessons from Marilyn Burns
Math guru Marilyn Burns gives three lessons through Scholastic Books.
- Math and literature
Suggested books for the primary grades.
- Idea Bank
Various resources including a downloadable PDF for linking math and literature.
- Finding math in stories
Tips for finding math lessons in the books you already read your kids.
- Story books for visual math
Tips from ehow.
- Carol Hurst's Math and Literature
Articles, reviews, and sample chapters.
Tutoring Time: Math Fun
Create Your Own Math Story
This group of seventh graders applied their knowledge of liquid measurements to create their own math picture book. This is an introduction to capacity, but it can also be an inspiration to other budding writers, artists, or mathematicians.
A Very Improbable Story: Teaching Probability
Children learn probability through experimentation... and games with dice, spinners etc. Yes, this is an improbable tale to say the least, but you can still pick up some ideas for real-world activities from this fanciful math story.
It is an improbable situation indeed: A boy wakes up with a cat on his head... a cat that challenges him to a probability game. An improbable reason for needing to solve math puzzlers: to get a kitty cat off one's head.
Simple Math Story: Fractions
Here's a simple online story book for recognizing fractions -- one that even our emergent readers may be able to read themselves. You'll find more of these online storybooks spotlighting other beginning math concepts.
Or a math story problem?