Book Review: Books that make good math even better
Independent Mathematics Consultant
The Dog: Is a Paw a Foot?
The first of them is a cute little book on measurement entitled The Dog: Is a Paw a Foot? by Kris Hirschmann, published by Scholastic, Inc. ©2005). Children love dogs and this book is loaded with cute pictures of dogs, puppies, and more dogs and puppies. All of the pictures are photographs of real dogs and puppies, not silly drawings. It also covers measurement in relation to dogs and puppies. It compares sizes including facts on the tallest and shortest dogs. It talks about length (of dog bones), compares dog paws to human feet. You discuss inches in relation to the width of a dog’s face. This book will make a discussion of measurement fun and relative to everyday life. You could even get brave and have students bring in their dogs for a measurement day. For older students you could have them measure their dogs at home and then have them draw a life size picture of the dog using the measurements they got.
What Time Is It Mr. Crocodile?
Another good book for measurement (telling time) is by Judy Sierra. What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile? (©2004, First Voyager Books, Harcourt). This book is cute, but a bit silly. Designed for the younger students, it talks about telling time to the hour as Mr. Crocodile makes his daily schedule. Primary children will enjoy the silly pictures as they look for the clock on each page and read the time. Most of the clocks have numbers at each hour but one has Roman Numerals and a couple just have tic marks for the numbers. A good challenge for your better students as they figure out what the hour should be. A nice follow-up to this book would be to make a flip-book having your students copy the clock and what Mr. Crocodile is doing. Or maybe draw the clocks and illustrate with what the students are doing at that time. For another lesson, have older students calculate elapsed time, (ex. How long was it from the time Mr. Crocodile ate breakfast until he went to the library?) Use this as an introductory lesson on telling time to the hour and follow-up with discussions comparing Mr. Crocodile’s day to their own lives. Lots of possibilities here. It also has an undertone on the value of friendship.
Have you ever looked for a good math poem?...fractions?...measurement?...time? and so on. Now, I’ve found just such a book. While Lee Bennett Hopkins’ book Marvelous Math is not particularly new, (©1997, Aladdin Paperbacks) it is a great collection of poems. I particularly like "Take a Number" by Mary O’Neill. It talks about a world without numbers and leads to some wonderful discussions on the importance of numbers in our world. The pictures are bright and colorful and appealing to students at all levels. This would be a good book to add to your classroom library as it fits in with many different math lessons on various grade levels.
Sir Cumference Books
If you are using any or all of the Sir Cumference books (5 of them) with your geometry lessons there is now a book with 30 lessons linking the books to math. Now I know that most of you have created or have access to lessons already, but sometimes it sure is nice to be able to find something different to spice up what you’ve been doing. One great feature of this book is the chart on the back cover. There’s a list of lesson activities and their correlation to the Multiple Intelligences. Inside, there is a story map (linking literature skills) that includes the problem solving sections of the story. You will also find a puppet show to accompany Sir Cumference and the First Round Table. If you want to create a game to use in your classroom, check out pages 8-9 where you will find a game board. There is a nice variety of activities from which to choose, so there should be something for everyone.
One Is a Snail Ten is a Crab
I found a relatively new counting book where you are counting feet. April Pulley Sayre and Jeff Sayre wrote One Is a Snail Ten Is a Crab. (©2006, Candlewick Press). This begins as a simple counting book counting feet. “1 is a snail” “2 is a person” but progresses through to 100, showing combinations like “90 is nine crabs or ten spiders and a crab”. This book is set at the beach of course (where else would you expect to find crabs) and the illustrations are bright, colorful and just plain funny. Read this book with the class for fun and then go back, reread, and talk about the math. Use the book as a springboard and let the students create their own books. Maybe One is a Worm and Four is a Cow??? The combinations presented make students think. Have them try to think of other combinations to equal that same number. Maybe 80 could be 20 puppies or 40 boys instead of 8 crabs or 10 spiders. Make a class chart with the combinations the students think of as a group. This book would make a nice addition to your class library.
Rabbits Rabbits Everywhere
Springtime makes us think of Easter and rabbits. Ann McCallum wrote a book called Rabbits Rabbits Everywhere: A Fibonacci tale. (©2007, Charlesbridge ) If you remember the Pied Piper of Hamelin, then you’ll recognize the story in this book, except now it’s the Pied Piper of Chee and this town is overrun with rabbits. But in this story, the rabbits multiply in a pattern, a Fibonacci pattern. This very easy to understand explanation of Fibonacci numbers is brought out in the story as Amanda, a young girl in the story, figures out the pattern and saves the community vegetable garden. The book is clever, colorful and does a good job of explaining Fibonacci number patterns for young children.
Another new book I found at Rock Eagle is entitled Great Estimations by Bruce Goldstone. (©2008, Henry Holt and Company) I think this book is wonderful! It’s bright, colorful, interesting to children and adults and it teaches you estimation strategies through helpful hints on the pages. The book immediately drew me in with its cover filled with rubber ducks, rows and rows of yellow rubber ducks. The author shows you how to estimate the large group of ducks by breaking them down into groups of ten and then hundreds, etc. After moving through the ducks, he invites you to look at other large groups of things and gives you hints on how to estimate the quantity of them. These items include dandelion seeds, bees, stars and more. Then he moves into estimating height, weight, length, volume, and really big numbers. One of my favorites is estimating how many hairs a cat has. Children will find this information fascinating. I mean, did you ever expect a cat to have more than 30 million hairs? Read this and you will find out about how many blades of grass are on a football field. Goldstone ends the book by challenging students to look for other things to estimate, like cans in a supermarket and more. This book is the type of book that is interesting reading, provides a great introduction to an estimation lesson or a large number lesson as well as getting students thinking about their surroundings. Don’t miss it.
Counting on Frank
If you are looking for another estimation book that will fascinate students then look no further than Counting on Frank by Rod Clement. (©1999 Gareth Stevens Publishing) The boy in this amusing story, along with his dog, present the reader with loads of interesting problems involving estimation skills. Students will love this book for the amusing illustrations, problems presented throughout the book, and the boys reasoning in solving the problems. This is another book that can lead into many math conversations regarding the scenarios in the book.
Another relatively new series of books, written by Virginia Pilegard, is the Warlord series of seven books. The first book was the Warlord’s Puzzle. (©2000, Pelican Publishing) The book is set in ancient China. When a tile given to the Emperor is broken he offers a reward to whoever can put it back together. Needless to say there were attempts by scholars and wise men but the only one to be successful was a small peasant boy who immediately put the seven pieces back into the square. This story is supposedly an origin of the tangrams, (one of a few origins) but either way, it’s a delightful story and one that tangram fanciers and children will enjoy. The illustrations are very appealing. The setting of ancient China may not be as exciting to small children but if you follow up with the book by having some time for students to explore tangrams and try to solve the problem of making a square with all seven pieces it will all tie in nicely. This is a good lesson when teaching shapes in geometry and helps students develop those visual skills.