Using Picture Books to Enhance Numeracy

What are picture story books for teaching Maths?

Picture books for teaching mathematical concepts are storybooks for children much like other illustrated storybooks that as a teacher you might share with your class. The difference being the focus on mathematical concepts that specifically link to the Maths curriculum. Many of these books are easy to read and share with a class. They are particularly useful at assisting children to visualise and understand many mathematical concepts.

A great example of a picture book that I have seen in use is “One is a snail, ten is a crab: a counting by feet book”. This book takes children through the numbers from 1 to 100 by counting animals feet. It gives opportunity to teach a multitude of mathematical concepts at different levels. Have a look at this video:

What is the evidence to support their use?

There is a growing body of evidence to support their use in the classroom because of the student and teacher engagement they provide. They make an important link between literacy and numeracy and they give rise to many mathematical problems to be explored through words and a meaningful story. Jennie Marston of Macquarie University promotes their use in the classroom and keenly shares how to identify appropriate picture story books for use in numeracy lessons.

Who are they for?

Mathematical picture story books are for a variety of ages but mainly aimed at lower primary school children. As a teacher, it is essential that when choosing one you link the concepts to the curriculum to ascertain the curriculum level the book would cater for. They are also beneficial as storybooks to be read between parent and child. Have a look at the following link to Marston’s article where she explicitly links three picture books to the Australian Mathematics curriculum.

Download - Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers

What types of picture books are available for use when teaching Maths?

Marston (2010) identifies three types of picture story book:

  1. Perceived - Books written principally to entertain; the mathematical concepts are unintentional and incidental.
  2. Explicit - Books written in picture book format to specifically teach or develop one or more mathematical concepts; these include counting books and ‘trade’ books.
  3. Embedded - Quality picture books written principally to entertain but with mathematical language and concepts purposefully embedded within them.

Example picture books available to buy.

Marston talks about the following picture story books in her article: 

Perceived picture storybooks

At the beach: Postcards from Crabby Spit - R. Harvey

Amy and Louis - Libby Gleeson

Are We There Yet? A Journey Around Australia - Alison Lester

Explicit picture storybooks

How big is big? - G. Watson & 1/2W Curl Curl North Public School.

The Waterhole - Graeme Base

Embedded picture storybooks

Uno's garden - G. Base

Minnie’s Diner: A Multiplying Menu - Dayle Ann Dodds

One Hundred Hungry Ants - Elinor Pinczes

The Maths Association Victoria sell 39 picture story books on a variety of different mathematical concepts:

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