# Maths Picture Storybooks

Parents and teachers understand first hand the power of **STORIES** for children’s development of language and early literacy. Fewer make use of stories and read-aloud activities for the development of early numeracy and mathematical thinking despite the emerging body of work that explores the effects of interactive read - alouds on mathematics teaching and learning.

##### (Casey, Ekrut, Ceder, & Young, 2008; Clarke, 2002; Jennings, Jennings, Van den Heuvel-Panhuizen, & Iliada, 2011; Van den Heuvel-Panhuizen, Elia, & Robitzsch, 2016; Young-Loveridge, 2004).

****It is critical that young children are provided with experiences that foster mathematics skills (Ginsburg et al., 2008). Opportunities to engage in mathematical learning experiences and build foundational mathematics skills. Young children often learn through direct instruction, observation, and engaging in games and other mathematics-related tasks (LeFevre et al, 2009; Sonnenschein et al., 2016), but learn best when instruction occurs in situations that children find engaging (NAEYC/NCTM, 2010; Pomerantz & Grolnick, 2017; Sonnenschein et al., 2016; Stites & Brown, 2019).

**Did you know? **

While engaging child-centered opportunities for non-mathematics learning abound in preschool classrooms,** mathematics exposure is often more limited (Ginsburg et al., 2008). Children spend an average of only 24 minutes a day with access to mathematics activities versus 77 minutes for literacy (Piasta et al., 2014).**

**Here's an idea...**

Classroom libraries have long been seen as effective ways to promote literacy development, especially when teachers take an active interest in supporting children’s use of it (Neuman, 1999). This research, along with what we know about reading storybooks with mathematical concepts to improve learning (Hassinger-Das et al., 2015), indicates that the classroom library should not be left out **when looking for ways to support young children’s mathematics learning.**

**Storybooks have also been shown to increase children's mathematical language use, which in turn, increases mathematics skills (**Gunderson & Levine, 2011; Purpura & Reid, 2016)** as well as their ability to think and communicate mathematically** (Moyer, 2000).** When teachers model mathematical language while engaging with children and connect mathematics concepts to children's interests, the children's mathematics skills increase** (Jacobi-Vessels et.al., 2014)

Math storybooks come in two types:

**1. Explicit mathematics content (often called math storybooks) where the goal of the text is to teach a mathematical topic (e.g. counting); **

**2. Implicit mathematics content (simply storybooks) where the topics are secondary to the story (Uscianowski et al., 2018). **

Both types of books can encourage mathematical thinking.

A book like *Chicka, Chicka, 1-2-3* (Martin & Sampson, 2005), where the point of the book is counting, is an explicit mathematics book. Conversely, *The Doorbell Rang *(Hutchins, 1989) is an implicit book because the division of the cookies is secondary to the theme of baking and sharing cookies.

**Here are (WITHOUT DOUBT) 10 of THE BEST Maths Through Story Picture Books:**

This story is full of characters, actions, struggles, and emotions. And yet at the heart of it is also a story about place value, number comparison and fractions. This is a great example to illustrate the fact that storytelling and mathematics teaching do not have to be mutually exclusive. They can be combined to create something truly remarkable – a mathematical story.

The way these stories involve not only characters but also some sort of a struggle or a problem for the characters to solve lends itself perfectly for mathematics teaching and learning whereby characters find themselves having to use their mathematical knowledge and skill to solve a problem that they face in the story.

Authors of well-written mathematical stories think carefully about what kind of variation their story needs that could help* scaffold* students’ learning of a mathematical concept in question. An example of this is:

The story follows two crickets, Ralph and Flora, who have collected twelve beans to bring home for dinner. When Flora decides to pick one more bean (i.e. Bean Thirteen), Ralph is convinced it will bring bad luck. No matter how many friends they invite to try to share the 13 beans equally, it is always impossible.

In this story, Sir Cumference is surprised to learn that four-eights of a cheese wheel that he wants is the same size as two-fourths of the same cheese wheel that Lady Di has chosen. Authors of effective mathematical stories do research and consult with experienced mathematics educators to identify such common mathematical misconceptions and weave them in their story.

Another key strengths of the story picture book format is the way mathematical concepts can be represented in different ways, be it* visually* (through page illustrations), *symbolically* (through mathematical language, models and notations), and *contextually *(through meaningful contexts in which mathematical concepts are found).

‘Divide and Ride’ is a story about a group of eleven friends who want to go on carnival rides. Some of these rides have two-people seats, others have three- and four-people seats. As these seats have to be filled up before each ride can begin, the children constantly have to work out how to group themselves. Clever!

Through the storyline, children can visually see how division works and what a remainder means in real life. This helps children to contextualize the concept. Additionally, not only do the illustrations depict division through images of children filling up the seats, they also include a mathematical model at the bottom of each page to represent the divisional situation in a different way as well as corresponding numerals to help children connect visual representation with symbolic representation.

Theoretically speaking, the more children are able to make meaningful connections between different representations of mathematical concepts, the more conceptual understanding they are demonstrating. Thus, effective mathematical story picture books carefully look at how these different representations can be combined seamlessly throughout the story.

In these stories DIVERSITY of characters is important. This is particularly relevant when stories in picture books are read to young readers when they are most impressionable, at a time when they are forming self-identity. There are several kinds of diversity, including but not limited to gender and ethnic diversity.

I've saved my favourite maths story picture book until last...

A snake finds sleeping mice and

a big jar in the meadow. The snake counts and places each mouse into the jar until there are ten mice altogether for him to eat. But one of the mice outsmarts him and suggests that the snake should add a big mouse who is nearby.

‼️ SPOILER ALERT ‼️ By the time the greedy snake comes back, all of the ten mice have escaped from the jar!

Click this link 🔗 for a storybook guide.

Other RICH resources include:

**The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics** (NCTM; https://www.nctm.org)

**Development and Research in Early Math Education** (DREME; https://dreme.stanford.edu) provide lists of mathematically relevant texts and suggestions for incorporating them into mathematics instruction.

If you haven't checked out Maths Through Stories then what are you waiting for? Here's what they believe...

**I have been inspired by reading other teachers sharing their experience of using stories in their mathematics teaching. Do check out these Instagram posts that comrades of mine across the globe have composed...**

You may be missing simple way to integrate maths into your everyday: books.

Choose mathematics-themed storybooks and incorporate them into your classroom library or bedtime story. These books can then be used to talk with children about different mathematical topics and therefore “do” more mathematics. Although grown ups 'read alouds' of mathematics books is limited (Pentimonti et al., 2011), when mathematics storybooks are read, children’s mathematical engagement increases (Langford, 1994) and more mathematical conversations occur (Hojnoski et al., 2014).

Storybooks are an easy, low cost way to foster a child’s excitement and understanding of mathematics SO... Let’s make the most of them! They might have more of an impact than you think!

**What is your thinking on Maths through story picture books? **

**I’d love to hear your thoughts. What Maths Picture Storybooks do you love? How do you use them? Which ideas resonate with you? What do you disagree with? What questions do you still have? All views are welcome - post in the comments. Or SMASH the REPLY button! I can't wait to hear from you!**

**Thank you for all you do to support your children's number journey. **

Love, Janey x

To further inform your thinking here are some useful links to literature that support the research and the pedagogy:

Ginsburg, H. P., Lee, J. S., & Boyd, J. S. (2008). Mathematics education for young children: What it is and how to promote it. *Social Policy Report, 22*, 3-22. ISSN: ISSN-1075-703.

Hassinger-Das, B., Jordan, N. C., & Dyson, N. (2015), Reading stories to learn math. *The Elementary School Journal*, *116,* 242-264.doi: 10.1086/683986.

Hojnoski, R. L., Columba, H. L., & Polignano, J. (2014). Embedding mathematical dialogue in parent-child shared book reading: A preliminary investigation. *Early Education and Development, 25,* 469-492.

Langford, V. (1994). The picture books of Anno: A search for a perfect world through a fascination with mathematics. *Children’s Literature in Education,* *25***, **193–202. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02355395.

LeFevre, J.-A., Skwarchuk, S.-L., Smith-Chant, B.L., Fast, L., Kamawar, D., & Bisanz, J. (2009). Home numeracy experiences and children’s math performance in the early school years. *Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, 41,* 55-66. doi:10.1037/a0014532.

National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NAEYC and NCTM). (2010). *Position statement. Early childhood mathematics: Promoting good beginnings*. Retrieved August 20, 2018, from http://www .naeyc.org/positionstatements/mathematics.

National Council Teachers of Mathematics (2013). Mathematics in early childhood learning: A position of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Retrieved from:

https://www.nctm.org/uploadedFiles/Standards_and_Positions/Position_Statements/Early%20Childhood%20Mathematics%20(2013).pdf__.__

Neuman, S. (1999). Books make a difference: A study of literacy. *Reading Research Quarterly, **34, *286-311. doi:10.1598/RRQ.34.3.3.

Pentimonti, J. M., Zucker, T. A., & Justice, L. M. (2011). What are preschool teachers reading in their classrooms? *Reading Psychology, 32*, 197-236. doi:10.1080/02702711003604484.

Pianta, R.C., Barnett, S.W., Burchinal, M., & Thornburg, K.R. (2009). The effects of preschool education: What we know, how public policy is or is not aligned with the evidence base, and what we need to know. *Psychology in the Public Interest, 10*(2), 49-58. doi:10.1177/1529100610381908.

Piasta, S.B., Pelatti, C.Y., & Miller, H.L. (2014). Mathematics and science learning opportunities in preschool classrooms. *Early Education and Development, 25, *445-468. doi:10.1080/10409289.2013.817753.

Pomerantz, E. M., & Grolnick, W. S. (2017). The role of parenting in children’s motivation and competence: What underlies facilitative parenting? In A. Elliot, C. S. Dweck, & D. Yeager (Eds.), *Handbook of Competence and Motivation, *2nd Edition: *Theory and Application *(pp.566-585). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Sonnenschein, S., Metzger, S.R., & Thompson, J.A. (2016). Low-income parents’ socialization of their preschoolers’ early reading and math skills. *Research in Human Development, 13, *207-224. doi:10.1080/15427609.2016.1194707.

Stites, M.L. & Brown, E.T. (2019, online)*. *Observing mathematical learning experiences in preschool. *Early Child Development and Care*. doi:10.1080/03004430.2019.1601089.

Uscianowski, C., Almeda, M. V., & Ginsburg, H. P. (2020). Differences in the complexity of math and literacy questions parents pose during storybook reading. *Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 50,* 40-50. doi: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.07.003.