Math Picture Books: Making Sense of Math

Using math picture books in the classroom is an excellent way to engage students. Teachers can also use math picture books to teach or reinforce grade-level content and skills through literature. A quick Google or Amazon search will yield hundreds of results. From place value to probability, there’s a great picture book to help your students make sense of math. In today’s post, I share four ways to use math picture books in the classroom.
This is the blog title- Seeing the Big Picture: Making Sense of Math with Math Picture Books
Recently, I’ve seen a lot of teachers posting comments on social media about great read-alouds to use with their classes. I want to encourage you to think about adding some math read-alouds to your classroom library. Math picture books can be used to enhance the mathematics you teach in the following ways:

Hooking Students Right from The Start

Consider the visual your students will create and the puzzled look that will move across their faces if you start your lesson with this line from If You Hopped Like a Frog– “If you were as strong as an ANT . . . you could lift a car!” Picture books can be great lesson openers and a way to hook your students right from the start! Choosing a picture book that is related to the content you are about to teach gives students a context for their learning, activates prior knowledge, illustrates another way to connect the learning, and develops curiosity about the skill.

Use the Story to Explore a Concept

Picture books can be a great way to explore a concept, too. Most picture books are designed for students to work through the problem of the story with the book’s characters. For this type of learning experience, a well-crafted activity sheet can be used to give students an opportunity to experience the problem with the characters. In One Hundred Hungry Ants, 100 ants marching to a picnic in a line decide to change their formation in order to arrive at the picnic faster. They try a variety of formations until they reach a 10 x 10 array. Through this book, students can explore the concept of an array and draw the arrays as the ants make the formations.

Use the Story to Explain and Make Sense of a Concept

How many times do we stand at the front of the room and explain a concept just to realize that our students don’t understand? Picture books can also support student understanding of a skill after an initial learning experience. Many books actually explain how or why to use a skill or procedure and then gives students an opportunity to apply it in the context of the story. Imagine reading about a French philosopher, Rene DeCartes who creates a grid system and then uses coordinates to record the landings of a fly on his ceiling. What if we could build on the story with a human coordinate plane where students use coordinates to locate objects? What a cool way to explain a concept that students often have trouble remembering correctly! (Reference: The Fly on the Ceiling)

Support Student Understanding

Picture books make great tasks for math stations. For example, instead of doing a worksheet for adding and subtracting decimals, students can listen to a story about a family of pigs on the hunt for money to buy dinner. During the reading, students follow the pigs on their journey. They record the amount of money found in each location and then find the sum at the end of the story. Students then use a menu to help the pig family determine their total bill and the change they will receive after their meal. What a great real-world example (minus the human-like pigs)! Series such as the Pig books by Amy Axelrod and books by Stuart Murphy are great for stations and when used with an accompanying activity sheet for students to complete during the story or after the reading. Check out a free activity for this book here! (Reference: Pigs will be Pigs)

Where to Find Math Picture Books

Amazon has a fabulous selection of math picture books– many of which you can peruse via their website. To help you select books that are appropriate for your grade level, I’m sharing my book list with you that includes a list of math books and the skills they reinforce. Grab your copy here! Happy Reading!
Want more? Check out these posts about math picture books!
Sound Off! What are your favorite math picture books? Respond in the comments below. 
Shametria Routt Banks

Shametria Routt Banks

You may also like...

2 Responses


    1. Hello! You can absolutely use these books to teach multiplication! You can find them in some bookstores, but I usually go straight to Amazon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.