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Question

Dear Mitch,

I'm a retired teacher homeschooling my grandchildren. Can you recommend some good math storybooks?

Avid Reader of your Question & Answers,

Margot McM-----

New Orleans, Louisiana

Answer

Dear Margot McM----- ,

Yes, I would be happy to recommend some!

A Cloak For the Dreamer, by Aileen Friedman

(This book, which is truly one of my personal favorites, ends with a couple of pages of suggested lesson plans and ideas for hands-on extensions.)

It tells the story of a tailor and his 3 sons, 2 of whom wish to follow their father's path and become independent tailors, and the third son who does not. Mathematically, the story is an excellent illustration of the idea that some shapes can be joined together to form a solid quilted plane without any overlapping or gaps, and some shapes cannot. (Squares, for example, can, and circles, of course, cannot. But what about octagons? Or pentagons? Or hexagons? )

The answers to these questions can be surprising and truly fascinating. A Cloak for the Dreamer is one of those special books that can be used with students from 1st through 12th grade. (With 12th graders, I developed an accompanying routine that made it a favorite of mine as well as many students; there's plenty of room and opportunity to insert humor throughout the tale, if you are so inclined.)

100 Hungry Ants, by Elinor J. Pinczes

This story brings to life the concepts of division and various ways of grouping the same number. It shows arrangements of 100 items (ants) in 10 groups of 10, 4 groups of 25, 5 groups of 20, etc.

100 Hungry Ants lends itself to having students retell the story (or creating their own stories) with different numbers of ants or other items, such as 72 coins and forming 2 groups of 36, 3 groups of 24, 6 groups of 12, 9 groups of 8, etc.

I recommend this book for k-6th graders.

Spaghetti and Meatballs for All, by Marilyn Burns

This book explores the relationship between area and perimeter with a family taking a collection of square dinner tables and repeatedly rearranging them to accommodate more and more guests. It also ends with a couple of pages of suggested lesson plans and ideas for hands-on extensions.

Is a Big Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is?, by Robert E. Wells

This story explores the relationships among large-to-gigantic numbers and masses. Its illustrations are breathtaking.

Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar, by Masaichiro Anno

This one is a miraculous demonstration of the power of exponents to leap toward greater and greater heights.

Hope that helps,

Mitch