Finding maths in storybooks - a tale of turning training into good practice

    Published: 26 June 2017

    In the Summer term 2016 Nicola Randall and Gillian Shearsby-Fox, Teaching and Learning Advisers for Mathematics at Herts for Learning, created and delivered a day of training on how to use books in maths. In this guest blog, Raj Khindey, an inspired maths subject Leader and Year 6 teacher at Chater Junior School,Watford; set about introducing the range of ideas she learned across her school.

    In this blog she explains which ideas she trialled in her own class, as well as how she shared this good practise throughout KS2.

    Following the training I was inspired to use a variety of fiction books that were recommended by Nicola and Gillian. I wanted to share this with the rest of the staff so the children as well as teachers could enjoy a different dimension to a traditional Maths lesson! So I held a staff meeting in Autumn Term and trialled some of the activities delivered in the course.


    Getting started

    I used the book Just a Second by Steve Jenkins with my year 6 class as their first Maths lesson and the we read the book, they were fascinated with the facts and were engaged, many surprised that Maths books existed! The children’s task was to write about their life in numbers. They were asked to mind map basic facts about their life, for example: their age, what house number they live at etc. The children could then decide what else they wanted to include and I was constantly encouraging them to show their Maths thinking.

    This was a very good example of a low entry, high ceiling task as well as good link to English!


    Another book that was used in Year 6 was Anno’s Multiplying Mysterious Jar.

    An excellent opportunity for problem solving and reasoning!


    Sharing Good Practice

    I showed these examples in my staff meeting and the teachers were given books that were recommended by Nicola and Gillian on the course to use with their year groups. The teachers were also given an opportunity to trial the activities from the course.

    It was a fun staff meeting and staff were inspired to use them in their Maths lessons.

    A whole school project

     As part of Book week, every class decorated their classroom door to look like the cover of a book that they studied during book week. My class chose another book by Steve Jenkins- Actual Size – which I was very pleased with as it had obviously made an impact-especially myself being eaten by the crocodile!


    I used this book when introducing diameter and radius using the page with the squid’s eye.  One child commented “I will think of the squid’s eye if I have a question about diameter and radius in the SATs test!”

    In the annual event, every teacher explored at least one book rich with mathematics with their class. The feedback I received from staff was very positive and all commented how much the children enjoyed the lessons especially those who are not confident in Maths.


    Year 3 read the first few pages of One Hundred Hungry Ants. They were then given the challenge of making arrays for 10, 50 and 100. Some of the children found it challenging but they preserved because they loved the book! The Year 3 teachers then further challenged the children to use their times tables to get as close to 100 as possible.


    Year 4 used the same book and the class teachers asked them to identify the Maths in the story. The children were then asked to use pictures of the animals in the book and Cuisenaire rods to represent combinations of making different numbers.


    Another book that was used was The Rabbit Problem and the children used their problem-solving skills to place a variety of vegetables using statements.  A year 4 teacher commented.

    The children really enjoyed the lessons and the activities were excellent to show their reasoning and problem-solving skills.

    Year 5 used the book ‘Math Curse’ to write word problems about the maths that exists all around us. Their word problems were then used to create their own class version of the book.


    It was an excellent example of children comprehending that Maths is everywhere!



    Anno, M ‘Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar’ (1983)

    Gravett, E ‘The Rabbit Problem’ (2009)

    Jenkins, S ‘Just A Second’ (2011)

    Jenkins, S ‘Actual Size’ (2004)

    Pinczes, E ‘One Hundred Hungry Ants’ (1993)

    Scieszka, J and Smith, L ‘Maths Curse’ (1995)

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