One + One = Two New Math Picture Books

LifetimeLynn:  Math picture books are usually about counting so it is exciting to find two new picture books that introduce different aspects of counting and math to young readers.

First up is Lifetime:  The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives (Chronicle 2013) by Lola M. Schaefer.  On the first page, Schaefer explains that “Lifetime shows how many times one particular animal performs one behavior or grows one feature in a lifetime.”  She explains how she arrived at each estimation and invites children to “enjoy reading and…counting.”  The first page turn reveals a wide sweep of green leaves on a dark brown background and one tiny spider spinning on egg sac.  Further pages show a woodpecker drilling 30 roosting holes, a rattlesnake with 40 beads to his rattle, an alligator with a lifetime’s 550 eggs and more.  Illustrator Christopher Silas Neal uses an quiet earth toned palette and sharp-eyed readers will realize that each 2 page spread depicts the actual number the animal discussed.  So 50 joeys hop across the pages, a dolphin displays its 100 teeth and on the last astonishing page 1000 teeny-weeny baby seahorses squiggle and wiggle.

Schaefer includes terrific back matter including detailed information on the animals in the book, a lucid explanation of what an average.  The final page  includes 3 story problems, one solved and 2 unsolved for readers to figure out.  The cover didn’t grab me at first but what is inside is something special.  This book offers a fascinating look at both natural science and counting and is sure to have children thinking about their world in a new way.

That's a PossibilityCindy:  Well, Schaefer’s book is one possibility, but I have another. <grin> That’s a Possibility! (Henry Holt 2013) by Bruce Goldstone is a fun look at the intriguing subject of probability. The book starts with explaining possibilities and impossibilities. Knocking down ten pins in bowling with one ball is a possibility, it’s called a strike. Someone could also knock down zero pins with a bowling ball (and I often do), another possibility. But it is impossible to knock down 12 pins with one ball since there are only 10 pins in each lane.

The book goes on to explain the variations of possibilities. Things that are certain, probable, likely or impossible. The cover art shows a gumball machine and the illustration inside uses a more varied set of colored gumballs to explain the concept. It’s possible to get the one blue gumball you see on the cover, but it is improbable. Finally, the issue of odds is explained. The obvious example of flipping coins, rolling dice or turning over a specific playing card are used, but other illustrations of the concept of odds are given as well.

The brightly colored and kid-friendly double page spreads introduce the concepts, give some examples and then ask the reader to think and answer some other questions using their new information. It’s a nice introduction to some important early math concepts.

Common Core Connections:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.7 Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).

Using That’s a Possibility have the students explain one of the probability terms presented in the book, by having them create a similar but different visual representation to one provided by Goldstone. Have them write 3-5 questions to be answered and then put the students in pairs or small groups to answer them.

nonfiction_mondayNonfiction Monday this week is at Perogies & Gyoza. Check it out for a roundup of children and teen nonfiction blog posts.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees.