Love that MATHS in books!

    Published: 04 March 2020

    It’s that time of year again, with over 100 countries ready to celebrate World Book Day all over the world. After first launching in the UK in 1997, World Book Day has continued to grow and now more than 15 million £1 book tokens are issued each year!

    To celebrate World Book Day 2020 our 11 Herts for Learning primary maths advisers share their favourite books which have lots of opportunities to explore a range of mathematical concepts…

    Pick 1: ‘Anno’s Counting Book’ by Mitsumasa Anno - recommended by Rachel Rayner

    This beautifully illustrated book (I don’t see why books with maths in them shouldn’t be) shows aspects of a village over twelve months.  First there is a beautiful empty, snowy field. On the next page the month of January is illustrated, the first month of the year where alone in the snow stands one house in front of one tree, with one child building one snowman below a sky in which a lone crow is flying.

    Five stunning double spread pages later it is June, the sixth month, six buildings are shown, split into three pairs by pathways, four children run a race towards two more children that hold the finishing tape, six ducks walk in two rows of three and six fir trees grow on a hill in clusters of two and three and one

    Early number sense is the focus here, learning about quantity and ordinal concepts in number, but there is also plenty of scope for developing positional language and ordinal numbers too. For the children it is the opportunity to count, see quantities being combined, finding the numbers that live inside other numbers, opportunities to subitise and to experience the tricky concept of conservation (we can make the same quantity in different ways) that are the opportunities this book affords. 

    Pick 2: ‘How Big Is AMillion’ by Anna Milbourne - recommended by Rachael Brown

    It has been over a decade since ‘How Big Is A Million’ by Anna Milbourne was first published but it is still one of my favourites. I’ve used this across the primary phase and during maths lessons, assemblies and simply as a favourite to revisit together!

    Pipkin the penguin goes on a search for big numbers and gets to meet 100 penguin and spots 1000 snowflakes in the sky. The surprise gigantic fold-out poster at the end of the book never fails to produce delighted gasps from Reception pupils and year 6 alike!  

    After reading you could write your own example as a class to link to work on number magnitude, for example: 1 beach, 10 seagulls, 100 crabs, 1000 shells, 1 million grains of sand etc.

    Pick 3: ‘Prehistoric Actual Size’ by Steve Jenkins - recommended by Charlie Harber

    A follow up book to the stunning original ‘Actual Size’.  This book creates awe and wonder as it allows you to come face to face with the ten-foot tall terror bird or imagine a millipede that is over six foot long! It provides a plethora of measurement opportunities: recreating full size measurements outside, converting from one unit to another (cm to inches etc), comparing and sorting animals etc.

    Additional information for each animal includes when it lived (allowing consideration of geological timescales and magnitude) and approximate weight. But it’s the fold out images that will inspire curiosity and spontaneous investigations. 

    Pick 4: ‘Abigail’ by Catherine Rayner - recommended by Gill Shearsby-Fox

    This Kate Greenaway medal winning book is a beautifully illustrated book about a very patient giraffe called Abigail who loves to count. She tries to count a number of different things but the things she wants to count move or get eaten! Eventually her friends suggest she counts the flowers in a field. Her friends decide to help but their counting is a little confused.

    This lovely book for younger children highlights how difficult learning to count is and some of the tricky bits when doing so.

    Pick 5: ‘Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide: To the Fantastic World Around You’ by Holly Black - recommended by Laura Dell

    I have used this amazing book in year 6 and always loved to see how the children became fascinated with the sizes given for each of the creatures of the ‘Invisible World’. For each creature described there is a sketch of them and then an approximate scale size. For example, it is noted underneath the drawing of the field piskie that it is ‘rendered one-fourth actual size’. The piskie is drawn holding one of Arthur’s paintbrushes because the piskie being studied was intrigued by the artist’s tools and in fact ‘swiped’ one of his brushes! We then used these approximate sizing to draw the actual size characters. Some characters involve enlarging, whilst others like the stray tuft, which is ‘rendered twice actual size’, allow the children use related division knowledge.

    Pick 6: ‘If the World Were a Village’ written by David J. Smith and illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong - recommended by Kate Kellner-Dilks

    First published in Canada in 2002 and the UK in 2003, this takes a unique look at the world as if it were a community of 100 people, making it a clever link to proportion and percentages. The second edition had its information updated in 2017, so that it reflects how the world is changing. It takes you through nationalities, languages, and aspects of the way we live, for example 85/100 is the proportion of the world’s population who have electricity.

    With obvious links to maths, geography, PSHCE and citizenship or character education, it’s a lovely text for helping us appreciate how fortunate we are.

    Pick 7: ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ retold by Ronnie Randall and illustrated by Emma Dodd - recommended by Doug Harmer

    I have used this many times in the Early Years to explore ratio and proportion. The beans are ‘planted’ by the children and overnight the massive beanstalk ‘grows’ in the classroom. They are so excited to see it along with the giant’s footprints across the floor leading to the sandpit. The children put their feet inside the giant’s footprints and talk about ‘how many times bigger’ and ‘how many times smaller’. They also compare their height with the giant.

    If the footprint is six times bigger than their feet then the giant is six times taller than them, which is shown on a height chart on the wall. I have also made a giant’s tea cup and toothbrush for the children to compare against their own. The book also has tactile elements where the children can ‘touch and feel’ the beans, the leaves, the gold coins and the giant’s boots.

    Pick 8: ‘Equal Shmequal’ by Virginia Kroll - recommended by Nicola Adams

    What does it mean to be equal? This book explores ‘being equal’ using the familiar ideas of a tug-of-war and trying to balance a seesaw, if you can call a wolf and a turtle on opposite ends of a seesaw familiar! As more and more animals arrive to play, the teams continue to develop throughout the book.

    “No fair!” complained Rabbit. They’re all big and we’re all small, so it isn’t equal at all.”

    Mouse comes up with a cunning plan – “I thought that instead of equal numbers,” she explained, “Our teams could have equal weights. We could use the seesaw to figure it out”.

    I particularly love pages 20 and 21 where Turtle, Deer, Wolf, Rabbit, Mouse and Bobcat are trying to work out which teams would balance the seesaw. The seesaw rises and falls each side as each animal jumps on until they get the perfect combinations. By estimating how heavy each animal is likely to be, the children could suggest who should jump on next and on which side. They could also suggest combinations that would not balance the seesaw. Unfortunately for Mouse’s team, when Bear looks up from his crumbs and decides he wants to join in, leaping on, he sends one team flying up into the air!

    Pick 9: ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks - recommended by Deborah Mulroney

    Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len are two crafty robbers with a cunning plan to steal the farmer’s fine prize cow. But little do they know that the tiniest, quietest creature of all has overhead their plot, and she has a plan of her own!

    Use this book in Early Years or Year 1 and see the children’s faces as they plot and plan to catch the robbers and save the farmer’s prize cow. There is the contrast of the silent but beautiful, glittery ladybird and the very noisy other farm animals, the joy of the rhymes and her very clever plan. By listening carefully and imagining the plan, the children are encouraged to plot the route and use directional language to catch the robbers.

    Pick 10: ‘Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’ - recommended by David Cook

    When the teacher, Mrs Fibonacci, tells her class that they can think of almost everything as a maths problem, one pupil begins to see the world very differently.

    From this day onwards, everything becomes a maths problem. Getting out of bed and dressed in the morning, being ready for the bus, sharing cupcakes fairly and counting fingers on the children on different planets provide a rich variety of opportunities to notice the maths everywhere. And it doesn’t stop when arriving home to listen to what mum and dad say over dinner!

    But this is one maths curse I would highly recommend. Each page provides a rich source of maths to explore. Its final problem provides a great finale to a cleverly and beautifully illustrated book.

    And last but certainly not least…Pick 11: ‘Mariella Queen of the Skies’ by Eoin Colfer - recommended by Siobhan King

    Mariella is a girl whose head is bursting with ideas and who loves nothing more than inventing.  There is just one problem – there are not enough hours in the day!How will Mariella solve the problem of bedtime?

    Maths is all about solving problems and this short Barrington Stoke book provides a wealth of opportunities to consider creativity in maths and how it feels to grapple with complex ideas. 

    In particular, this book provides opportunities to further consider distance and travelling speed, percentages and expressing ideas as equations.  It could be used with pupils across the primary phase.  In addition, inside the front cover there are examples of other women who, like Mariella, have come up with some brilliant ideas.

    We hope this collection has inspired you to explore a new text or explore an existing book in a new way. For more details of Herts for Learning’s World Book Day celebrations please search #LoveThatBook.

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