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Living math books explain how math works. This collection features some of the best living books for preschool and elementary math.
I love looking for ways to bring books into our homeschool studies. Math is one unexpected place we can bring books into the study to make the concepts more concrete.
Kids can see the reasons for learning their math facts. They can see how certain math concepts, like addition and subtraction, can be used in the real world. They can see how math works.
Living Math Books Explain How Math Works
Fill your book basket with a great collection of living math books. Most of these books can be found at your local library or used bookstore. If you have a hard time finding them, you can order them on Amazon by clicking the images below.
Math Curse | Did you ever wake up to one of those days where everything is a problem? Why do 4 kids always have to divide 12 marbles? Why can’t you just keep 10 cookies without someone taking 3 away? Why? Because you’re a victim of the Math Curse. That’s why. But don’t despair. This is one girl’s story of how that curse can be broken.
Multiplying Menace: The Revenge of Rumplestiltskin | Rumpelstiltskin is back! This time he’s making mischief with his multiplying stick. Can Peter unlock the secret of the stick in time to save the kingdom? Whimsical illustrations bring fun to multiplying whole numbers and fractions.
Spaghetti and Meatballs for All! A Mathematical Story | Mr. and Mrs. Comfort are having a family reunion! Mr. Comfort starts cooking up his famous spaghetti and meatballs, while Mrs. Comfort carefully arranges eight tables and thirty-two chairs so that everyone will have a seat. The tables look lovely, the food is ready, and here come the guests–with their own seating plans!
Each Orange Had 8 Slices | If each orange has 8 slices and each slice has 2 seeds, then how many seeds are there in all? You’ll have fun multiplying, adding, and counting your way through the math puzzles hiding in the world all around you.
Quack and Count | Slip, slide, leap, and dive with a family of seven lively ducklings as they get ready to fly for the very first time. Keith Baker’s playful, rhyming text and bold collage illustrations capture the excitement of a day’s adventures–and gently introduce counting.
Ten Black Dots | What can you do with ten black dots? One dot can make a sun, two dots can make the eyes of a fox, and three dots can make a snowman’s face. And that’s just the beginning in this unique counting book!
The Multiplying Menace Divides | After being banished to the Abyss of Zero in MULTIPLYING MENACE: THE REVENGE OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN, Rumpelstiltskin is back, and he’s stirring up more trouble than ever. Can Peter once again save the kingdom in time, or will it meet a green and warty fate?
12 Ways to Get to 11 | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 __ 12 What happened to 11? Is it in the magician’s hat? Maybe it’s in the mailbox or hiding in the jack-o’-lantern? Don’t forget to look in the barnyard where the hen awaits the arrival of her new little chicks. Could that be where eleven went?
The Grapes of Math | “How many grapes are on the vine? Counting each takes too much time. Never Fear, I have a hunch There is a match for every bunch!”
Domino Addition | It’s time to spread out your dominoes and learn how to add! Learning to add is fun when you use dominoes. This bold, colorful counting book shows you how.
Animals on Board | Ride along with trucker Jill and her dog as they add up the animals passing by on other trucks. But these are no ordinary animals, and they’re bound for a surprise destination!
The Mission of Addition | This book helps kids become familiar with terms they’ll encounter when learning to add, gives fun examples of adding, and includes practical applications that kids can relate to, all in the author’s characteristic wacky rhyme.
Even Steven and Odd Todd | A mismatched pair–Even Steven and Odd Todd–through their differing number preferences, teach basic number concepts in a way that both children and their parents will enjoy.
More or Less | Eddie has a booth at the school fair, guessing people’s ages. He hasn’t guessed wrong yet, but if he does, he gets dunked. Can Eddie keep guessing right — and keep from getting wet?
Elevator Magic | When the elevator goes down, the subtraction starts and so does the magic. Ben sees crazy things every time the door opens. Ride along as he subtracts his way down to the lobby, and decide for yourself if it’s elevator magic.
Just Enough Carrots | Elephants, rabbits, and birds shop in this funny grocery store. Can you guess what the little rabbit wants more of? Munchy, crunchy carrots, of course! And fewer of? Squirmy worms and chewy peanuts (yuck!). So why is his mother buying all those cans of worms?
The Great Graph Contest | Two comical creatures go crazy with graphs in an imaginative look at organizing information. Young readers can learn about bar graphs, pie charts, Venn diagrams, and more. Details about how each graph was made are shown at the end plus instructions for students to make their own.
The Penny Pot | Follow along and count coins with Jessie and her friends as they are transformed into a clown, a monster, and more at the face painting booth.
A Remainder of One | When the queen of her bugs demands that her army march in even lines, Private Joe divides the marchers into more and more lines so that he will not be left out of the parade.
Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert | Sir Cumference and Lady Di need a baker to prepare a special dessert for the annual Harvest Faire. Two bakers compete to see whose dessert is most popular. When Pia of Chartres and Bart Graf have trouble keeping track of the votes their desserts receive, they each develop a better system. Pia places a colored candy around the edges of a pie dough (like a pie chart), and Bart stacks up cookie tins (making a 3D bar graph). When there’s a tie, the two chefs cook up a hybrid dessert just in time for the Faire.
Fractions in Disguise | When a valuable fraction goes missing, George Cornelius Factor (a.k.a. GCF) vows to track it down. Knowing that the villainous Dr. Brok likes to disguise his ill-begotten fractions, GCF invents a Reducer—a tool that strips away the disguise, reducing the fraction and revealing its true form
Tally O’Malley | The O’Malleys are off to the beach! But it’s a long, hot, boring drive. What can Eric, Bridget, and Nell do to keep busy? Play tally games, of course — counting up all the gray cars or green T-shirts they see. Whoever has the most marks at the end wins the game.
Lemonade for Sale | Four kids and their sidekick, Petey the Parrot, run a lemonade stand whose patrons include all kinds of wacky neighbors—even a juggler. They create a bar graph to track the rise and fall of their lemonade sales. Author Stuart Murphy and illustrator Tricia Tusa make understanding bar graphs a breeze with lively art and a warm story.
Divide and Ride | Scream down the Dare-Devil Coaster and whirl around in the Twin Spin cars! Join in the carnival fun as 11 friends divide up to fit on the 2-to-a-seat roller coaster and the 4-to-a-cup teacups ride. Making new friends and practicing predivision skills have never been so exciting!
The Great Divide | Eighty racers explode from the starting gate, determined to win The Great Divide. They surge ahead, rushing toward—OH NO!—the wide hungry mouth of a grand canyon that claims half the racers. And this is only the beginning. More dangers lie ahead, waiting to divide the group once, twice, three times, and more. Will there be anyone left to cross the finish line?
Full House: An Invitation to Fractions | Miss Bloom runs the Strawberry Inn, and she loves visitors. All through the day she welcomes a cast of hilarious characters until all the rooms are taken. It’s a full house! But in the middle of the night, Miss Bloom senses that something is amiss — and sure enough, the guests are all downstairs eating dessert. Readers will be inspired to do the math and discover that one delicious cake divided by five hungry guests and one doting hostess equals a perfect midnight snack at the Strawberry Inn. Piece of cake!
Which of these living math books have you used in your classroom to demonstrate how math works?
Katie Glennon says
What a fantastic list of living books to teach math! We used so many of these when my guys were little and loved it! A number of them have suggestions for activities to do with your kids at the book of the book/ the ones that are more stories and not about activities! Thanks for putting together such a great post and sharing these book titles! I am your post with my email subscribers as a resource for teaching math with living books!
I have some book titles and activity suggestions for geometry, and studying the circle and Pi for Pi Day if you wish to check them out at https://katieshomeschoolcottage.com/2017/03/13/celebrate-pi-day-march-14-with-free-printable-headband/
Such a great blog post! Thanks for all the research!