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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books About Math

tagged: math concepts, primary math, math is fun, notes from a children's librarian, 49th kids

As the school year winds down, teachers are already thinking ahead to resources for the year ahead—and parents are taking stock of ways to prevent the summer slide. Our Children's Librarian Julie Booker recommends great books that complement the Primary Math curriculum and make for entertaining reads at the same time. 

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Looking for a great introduction to many math objectives? Look no further than the "Math Is CATegorical" series by Brian P. Cleary and Canadian cartoonist Brian Gable. These books are fun, with short, rhyming text and great illustrations to help kids not only understand mathematical concepts, but remember them.

In A Second, A Minute, A Week with Days in it: A Book About Time, Cleary writes, “1 second is short, like the time that it takes to clap twice or hiccup or sneeze. It’s the time that you need to recite ‘one, one thousand.’ A minute has 60 of these.” The book touches on minutes in an hour, hours in a day, weeks in a year, etc. There is a reference to the American Pledge of Allegiance, but the other books in the series about measurement mention both metric and imperial units.

Titles include: The Action of Subtraction (“Whatever you are counting, it will take away a part, and leave you then with not as much as you had at the start.”); The Mission of Addition; A Fraction’s Goal, Parts of a Whole; How Long or How Wide? A Measuring Guide; A-B-A-B-A, A Book of Pattern Play; and On the Scale: A Weighty Tale

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Book Cover City Numbers

Numeration is addressed in City Numbers, by Joanne Schwartz, photos by Matt Beam. As Schwartz says in her Afterword: “Take a look around. City numbers are everywhere.” Each photo of Beam’s tells a story of the urban world, from spray painted numerals, to advertised prices, to neon tubing, to moveable letters on a sign board. Ordered from 1 to 10, it includes percentages, decimals and whole numbers, with one long playful “sentence” of a bar code at the end. Also in the afterward, Beam explains how he started collecting his photos—an invitation for students to do the same. 

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Equal Shmequal

Equal Shmequal, by Virginia Kroll, illustrated by Canadian Philomena O’Neill, is a sweet story about a group of animals playing tug-of-war. They struggle to figure out fair teams, trying out bear versus mouse, then an uneven number of players, plant-eaters versus meat-eaters, fur versus no fur. They have a discussion about halves, big and small, until finally they use a seesaw to solve the problem. An Afterward about what it means to be equal sums it all up.

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Triangle, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Canadian, Jon Klassen, is a simple story that can be used to discuss attributes of geometric shapes. Triangle lives in a triangle house in a land of triangles. One day he travels to the land of squares to play a trick on Square. He pretends to be a snake to scare Square. When Square angrily chases Triangle back to his house he gets stuck in the triangular front door. (And check out sequels Circle and Square as well!) 

Time is introduced in Harry Up, Henry, by Jennifer Lanthier, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant. Best friends Simon and Henry are polar opposites. Henry is always being told to hurry up and Simon, to slow down. For Henry’s birthday, Simon plots with Henry’s grandma (who appreciates moving slowly) to turn back the clock to allow Henry an extra hour of birthday. This could be a great discussion starter for how our experiences of time can be subjective.

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The Enormous Potato, retold by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Dusan Petricic, could be used to talk about mass. This story begs to be read aloud; a farmer’s potato seed grows into a plant so large he needs to enlist the help of his family (including the dog, cat and mouse) to pull the potato out of the ground. The whole village joins in and enjoys the resulting feast.

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Book Cover It Couldn't Be Worse

The classic tale It Couldn’t be Worse, by Vlasta Van Kampen, is a fun way to introduce capacity, beginning with a farmer’s wife’s complaining to a fishmonger at market about her full house (six kids and the grandparents). The fishmonger advises her to bring the goat into the house. She returns to market the next day, commiserating, “It couldn’t be worse!” Each day, another farm animal squeezes in until, finally, she kicks them all out. The farmer and his wife conclude finally that the situation is much better than it had been before.

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A fun story to introduce temperature is 50 Below Zero, by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko. Jason’s dad is a sleep-walker. Jason finds him on top of the fridge, in the bathtub, on top of the car, and finally, outside in 50 below zero temperature, frozen solid. And so Jason drags his dad home for a defrosting in the bathtub. 

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On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.

June 6, 2019

Books mentioned in this post

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A Second, a Minute, a Week with Days in It

A Book about Time

by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Brian Gable
edition: Hardcover
also available: Paperback
  • age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 3
tagged: date & time, beginner

The zany CATegorical cats introduce the measurement of time, from seconds, minutes, and hours up to decades. Brian P. Cleary and Brian Gable bring their winning teamwork to this playful, fun look at learning about time.

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The Action of Subtraction

by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Brian Gable
edition: Hardcover
also available: Paperback
  • age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 3
tagged: counting & numbers

The author and illustrator of the best-selling Words Are CATegorical® series brings their trademark sense of humor to the subject of subtraction. Rhyming text filled with funny, countable examples shows what it means to take one number away from another. Readers are also introduced to the terminology they'll encounter as they learn to subtract.

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The Mission of Addition

by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Brian Gable
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover
  • age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 3
tagged:

In the first book of the Math Is Categorical® series, readers will become familiar with the concept of addition and its key terms. The author and illustrator of the best-selling Words Are CATegorical® series use their trademark sense of humor to add up the fun!

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A Fraction's Goal — Parts of a Whole

by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Brian Gable
edition: Hardcover
also available: Paperback
  • age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 3
tagged: fractions, beginner

In this fun-filled look at fractions, Brian P. Cleary and Brian Gable demonstrate how fractions work by splitting whole objects into parts. The comical cats of the wildly popular Words Are CATegorical® series divide everything from pieces of pizza to groups of people into halves, thirds, tenths, and more. Peppy rhymes, goofy illustrations, and kid …

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How Long or How Wide?

A Measuring Guide

by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Brian Gable
edition: Hardcover
also available: Paperback
  • age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 3
tagged: size & shape

Brian Cleary and Brian Gable bring their trademark sense of humor to the subject of measuring length. A rhyming text filled with funny examples explains how to use and compare metric and U.S. customary units of length. Readers are also introduced to the tools they need to measure length—rulers, metersticks, and more.

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A-B-A-B-A—a Book of Pattern Play

by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Brian Gable
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover
  • age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 3
tagged: size & shape

In this playful look at patterns, Brian P. Cleary and Brian Gable provide many examples of repeating sequences of shapes, colors, objects, and more. The comical cats of the wildly popular Words Are CATegorical® series show how patterns can be found all around us. Peppy rhymes, goofy illustrations, and kid-friendly examples make pattern practice fu …

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On the Scale, a Weighty Tale

by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Brian Gable
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover
  • age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 3
tagged: size & shape

In this wacky look at weight, Brian P. Cleary and Brian Gable introduce essential measurement units—from grams to pounds to tons. The comical cats of the wildly popular Words Are CATegorical® series show how to measure trucks, trains, ducks, cranes, and more. Peppy rhymes, goofy illustrations, and kid-friendly examples make light work of this he …

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City Numbers

by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Matt Beam
edition: Hardcover
  • age: 0 to 100
  • Grade: p to 17
tagged: counting & numbers

Joanne Schwartz and Matt Beam have discovered numbers in many different forms all over the city. They are on houses and apartment buildings, on store windows and doors, on trucks and garbage bins, on sidewalks and parking spots. They are printed, spray-painted, molded in plastic, chiseled in stone, even torched into metal.

We see these numbers, ofte …

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Triangle

by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
edition: Hardcover
also available: Hardcover
  • age: 4 to 100
  • Grade: k to 4
tagged: size & shape, humorous stories

See below for English description.

Voici Triangle. Il veut jouer un tour à son ami Carré. Mais Carré n'aime pas qu'on se moque de lui. Rira bien qui rira le dernier. L'association de l'humour ironique de Mac Bennett et des illustrations aux codes bien reconnaissables de Jon Klassen, plus fortes que jamais, fait de ce duo l'une des équipes les pl …

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Circle

by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
edition: Hardcover
  • age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 4
tagged: humorous stories, friendship, size & shape

Multi-award-winning, New York Times best-selling duo Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen deliver the final wry and resonant tale about Triangle, Square, and Circle.

This book is about Circle. This book is also about Circle’s friends, Triangle and Square. Also it is about a rule that Circle makes, and how she has to rescue Triangle when he breaks that rule …

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Square

by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
edition: Hardcover
  • age: 5 to 9
  • Grade: k to 4
tagged: humorous stories, size & shape, friendship

The beguiling second entry in the innovative shape trilogy by multi-award-winning, New York Times best-selling duo Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen.

This book is about Square. Square spends every day taking blocks from a pile below the ground to a pile above the ground. This book is also about Square’s friend Circle. Circle thinks Square is an artistic …

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Hurry Up, Henry

by Jennifer Lanthier, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
edition: Hardcover
  • age: 3 to 7
  • Grade: p to 2
tagged: friendship, birthdays, date & time

A beautiful new picture book from an acclaimed author-illustrator team, showing the virtues of moving slowly in our modern world that's always hurrying

Henry's mother and father and sister are always telling him to hurry up, and his best friend, Simon, never slows down. Henry doesn't like to be late. But he doesn't want to hurry, either. He likes to …

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Enormous Potato, The

by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Dusan Petricic
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover
  • age: 3 to 7
  • Grade: p to 2
tagged:

Folk tales give us hope. They show us that we can succeed in spite of apparent problems. And they entertain. Perhaps this accounts for their universal appeal and their amazing ability to survive. “The Enormous Potato” is one such story that has been around for generations. Retold by professional storyteller Aubrey Davis, it shows what can be ac …

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It Couldn't Be Worse

illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover
  • age: 3 to 6
  • Grade: p to 1
tagged: humorous stories, farm animals

The tiny house had just one room for the farmer, his wife, their six children, and the grandparents. They quarreled and fought and got in each other's way. It couldn't be worse!

On hearing of their difficult situation, a wise old fishmonger suggests the family take their goat inside the house with them. The farmer's wife is dumbfounded by this st …

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50 Below Zero

by Robert Munsch & Michael Martchenko
  • age: 2 to 5
  • Grade: p to k
tagged: beginner

Jason’s dad falls asleep everywhere … except in his own bed.

All night long, Jason gets woken up by strange noises that lead him to find his dad in the most unexpected places—from on top of the refrigerator to the freezing cold woods outside his house. In order to finally get a good night’s sleep, Jason musters up all of his resources and co …

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