Story time in math class!

I love teaching math with stories. Not only do I value the authentic nature of solving math problems from books, I love how quickly they can engage a whole class. I find it so rewarding when a child makes the connection between the story and the math involved. I taught with a book the other day in kindergarten and all of us laughed when one kid yelled out, “hey, this is just like math!”, not making the connection that I was there to teach math!

My pet peeve, is that sometimes it is so difficult to find a book that teaches what I want to teach, when I want to teach it,  in the way that I want to teach it!

I give you Exhibit A!


Even after exhaustive on-line searches, a plethora of librarian requests, asking all my mathy friends on twitter and begging Marilyn Burns to write another book…I still find it hard to get that picture book that would explain the concept I want, perfectly. I’ve even considered asking my friend, who says that she has always wanted to write a kids book, to help me! (Shar expect a phone-call!). I could tell her the concept, she could write the story, and we could get someone else to do the pictures so we don’t scare the children!

I give you Exhibit B!


This is a dog…in case you were wondering!

So when I do find the perfect book, I have to share it with everyone! Last week, I began a kindergarten class with the book called: “One is a snail Ten is a crab – A counting by feet book”, by April and Jeff Sayre and the kids loved it! I was getting so tired of all the books that predictably count up by one or down by one, and although this book does do that, it is a great book to use for showing different ways to compose numbers.

I give you Exhibit C!


One is a snail, ten is a crab by April and Jeff Sayre

I would read a page, and then ask the students so, “What is 6”. Here are the responses I got:

“An insect!”

“ Six snails!”

“ A dog and a person!”

And the really clever individual: “3 people!”

Without knowing it, I had generated a number talk and every time someone offered a different way of making 6, all the kids were amazed! What’s great about the book, is the authors mix up their ways of composing the number too! Sometimes it is just one thing (i.e. a spider), and other times it is a combination of things (i.e. six snails)! This is a great book for those kids who are ready to step beyond the predictable patterns normally found in books.

Here’s Rory and Oliver trying to figure out what comes next. They obviously need more exposure with crabs!

Next week, I am going to use the same book for grade one in order to demonstrate equivalence. “Oh – so a dog and a person (4+2) is the same as six snails (1+1+1+1+1+1).” Since our school just bought a whole bunch of cuisenaire rods, I’m going to have the students use cuisenaire rods to record their responses.

I give you Exhibit D! (In class, we will use the concrete rods and a white board to record our work).


Using cuisenaire rods to demonstrate equivalence.

If the teachers have time, I think we’ll extend it even further by having them make mobiles where one side is equal to the other side! I’m so excited! And what inspired me? A book!

Needless to say, I’m not the only one who appreciates this book. I stopped at page 10 (“ten is a crab”) for my K and 1 classes, but the book continues and could be used for many number concepts in K-2. Even Rory wanted to continue reading and as a result, got to demonstrate his new math milestone: counting by tens to one hundred!

If you search the net, you will find a lot of resources to help you use this book in your classroom as well.

Click here  for some suggestions!

Meanwhile, do you have other great books for the math classroom? Let me know in the comments section below!

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