Sunday, July 5, 2020

Using Picture Books in Math Class

If you read my last post, you know I'm a huge advocate for using picture books in the upper grades. Today, I'd like to discuss the benefits of using these fun books in math class.

Picture books are great way to review concepts at the end of a unit.
While I prefer using children's books to introduce concepts in social studies and science, I like to use them to review content in math and ELA.

This book is part of my district's required math curriculum for fourth grade. We use it as an introduction to our geometry unit. Let me just say that it was WAY over my fourth graders' heads, but sixth grade students that I tutored loved it. What was the difference? Part of it was the age difference, but I think the biggest part was that the older kids understood the concepts better. It's hard to find the humor in anything or follow a story-line if you're wrestling with basic ideas.

Just out of curiosity, I read it to the class again before their final geometry test. The kids enjoyed it a whole lot more because they understood it and could explain the ideas behind the humor. The first time I had read it, I may as well have been reading a book written in another language because...I basically was! I was using unfamiliar vocabulary that described concepts they had not yet learned. From that point on, I started using picture books as a tool for review in math. 

By the way, if you are not familiar with the Sir Cumference series, you are definitely going to want to check them out! (This is not an affiliate link). Middle school students will love the humor and the application of mathematical ideas. 


Picture books appeal to both sides of the brain. 
I don't claim to know the full science behind left-brain and right-brain learning, but I do know that as educators we should try to appeal to a variety of learning styles. Most mathematical processes tend to occur in the analytical left side of the brain, while creative processes tend to be more of a right-brain activity.

Mathematical computation + creative pictures illustrating concepts = big time learning win for students!

I also think it's important for students to see that math, reading, and writing are not exclusive subjects--they intertwine in school and in real life. 

Picture books show the practical application of math in the real world.
It's important for kids to see how the vague, mathematical notions they learn in school actually apply to the real world--their real world. Children's authors and illustrators do a fabulous job taking math concepts and applying them to things kids can relate to. 

Learning about fractions? Hershey candy bars are something most kids love and know a thing or two about. My kiddos couldn't get too excited about the textbook's egg carton diagrams, but boy howdy, did they love learning about fractions when candy bars entered the picture! It led to a great discussion about other fractions in real life.

Children's books can definitely be a great teaching tool in math class. They appeal to different learning styles, help kids see how math is related to writing and reading, and bring a little fun to the classroom.

Can you think of a math lesson or unit that you can improve by including a picture book? Go ahead and give it a try!




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