Math is a subject that has many children, and adults trying to help them, struggling. These works of fiction can help make math fun and understandable for young children. These picture books offer children characters, which can help young children, begin to understand shapes, money, telling time, counting, estimation and more.
Zero is the Leaves on the Tree by Betsy Franco explores the idea or zero through the four seasons and five senses. While the idea might be simple, it helps explain an abstract idea that can be challenging for many children.
Math Attack! by Joan Horton is a funny story about one girl whose brain ‘exploded’ when she has trouble calculating seven times ten. Numbers fly from her head and no one is safe until she figures out the right answer.
The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins is about Victoria and Sam, who are happy that Ma has baked a dozen cookies. They are just about to enjoy the cookies when the doorbell rings. The doorbell rings repeatedly, bringing in more people who want to share Ma’s delicious cookies. This story can also be a good jump-start into a conversation about sharing, as well as math.
Also by Pat Hutchins is 1 Hunter, a counting book with an I Spy element. A lone hunter is moving through the forest and fails to notice any of the animals around him. However, he is observed by two elephants, then by three giraffes, and so on.
Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3 by Bill Martin has the same charming cut paper illustrations and rhyming style as Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Boom, which is a classic. In this book, numbers climb to the top of an apple tree, from one to one hundred.
A Remainder of One, One Hundred Hungry Ants, and Inchworm and a Half by Elinor J. Pinczes use insects to demonstrate math ideas and skills. Division, counting, and measuring are explored in a variety of ways. The illustrations are cute and catch the imagination and attention of young readers.
Just a Minute: a Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales teaches children about counting, and some Spanish. In the story Senor Calavera (death) comes to take Grandma Beetle’s take her to the next life. She stalls by telling him that she needs to get a series of tasks done, which lends to counting to ten. However, after helping Grandma Beetle count and enjoying his time with her as she makes her birthday preparations, he changes his mind.
Pigs on a Blanket by Amy Axelrod tells of the Pig family’s trial in getting to the beach. Elements of telling time, adding, and subtracting are explored during their efforts.
Anno’s Magical Seeds by Mitsumasa Anno is a playful tale about a farmer that is given magic seeds by a wizard. As the seeds are planted and new seeds are produced, readers are asked to do a series of mathematical operations to figure out how many seeds have been planted or will be produced each time.
Superhero School by Aaron Reynold is about Leonard, and his classmates, who are disappointed to discover that Superhero School seems to only teach math. However, when ice zombies attack the children are able to put their new knowledge to good use.
The Clock Struck One: a Time-Telling Tale by Trudy Harris expands on the idea of the classic rhyme “Hickory Dickory Dock.” Hour after hour is described, until it is midnight and tired animals go to sleep. At the end of the book, there are facts about clocks and some basic information about telling time.
Guinea Pigs Add Up by Margery Cuyler explains addition to young children. In Mr. Gilbert’s class there is a guinea pig as a class pet. However, it looks so lonely he brings another. Before long, the class is learning about addition, and has a very full cage of guinea pigs.
Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha is a story that combines humor, math and history. Marshall undertakes the task of guessing how many beans are in a jar to win a sewing machine for his mother. The story is set during the Great Depression.