Pre-K

Growing Reader

Tween

5 Illustrated Books for Kids
Who Dig Math

by Kathryn Haydon

Photo credit: Ariel Skelley, Blend Images/Getty Images

Does your child love numbers? Is she constantly looking for ways to apply math concepts to the world around her? Do you find yourself eager to nurture this interest and also integrate it with her reading development?

Illustrated books can help. They add a concrete, narrative dimension to otherwise abstract concepts and can help visual, story-based learners improve their grasp of mathematical relationships. They’re also a great way to introduce younger math whizzes to more advanced material beyond their grade level.

These five delightful books bring math concepts to life, challenge thinking in new ways, offer interesting facts and insights, and show how math relates to the things kids see, hear, and do every day.

  • Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar

    by Masaichiro Anno and Mitsumasa Anno

    The genius of this book is that it simultaneously offers something for kids of varying levels of mathematical sophistication. For younger kids, it’s a counting book; for older children, it illustrates multiplication; for more mathematically advanced readers, it demonstrates the inner workings of factorials (remember those?). Written and illustrated by an award-winning Japanese father-and-son team, the story of the Annos’ magical jar combines a clever tale and beautiful pictures to help children understand tricky — but nonetheless important and foundational — math concepts.

  • Math Curse

    by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

    Any book by Jon Scieszka incorporates zany humor. He also has a knack for looking at traditional topics in fun, new ways. Math Curse draws on all of Scieszka’s talents to tell the story of a boy who thinks his teacher has put a “curse” on him that forces him to see the whole world as a giant word problem. Everything about his day — from waking up to eating breakfast to learning social studies — is suddenly viewed through the lens of math. This entertaining book will inspire your family to view your world a little more quantitatively, too.

  • The Number Devil

    by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, illustrated by Rotraut Susanne Berner

    While The Number Devil is actually about a boy who initially despises math, it appeals to elementary and middle schoolers who are intrigued by the subject. The protagonist of this magical story is visited in his dreams by a number devil, who introduces him to and eventually gets him excited about many fascinating math concepts: infinity, division, squaring, powers, rational/irrational numbers, square roots, Fibonacci numbers, the Golden Ratio, prime numbers, triangular numbers, and more. The pair also meet famous mathematicians like Pythagoras and Carl Friedrich Gauss. The Number Devil was originally written in German (translated by Michael Henry Heim) and is aimed at math learners in the upper-elementary to middle school range.

  • Grandfather Tang’s Story

    by Ann Tompert, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker

    The subtitle of this book is “A Tale Told with Tangrams,” and Tompert’s story delivers on its promise. In the opening scene, Little Soo and Grandfather Tang are sitting by a tree playing with their tangram pieces. Little Soo asks for a story about fox fairies, so her grandfather arranges his tangrams in the shape of foxes and begins. The tangrams fluidly shape-shift into different animals as the story proceeds. The story is even more fun and engaging if you have your own set of tangrams to play with as you read. Check out these follow-up puzzles to dig deeper:

    - Printable tangram set
    - More tangram pictures and animals (invent your own!)
    Puzzles you can try to solve with tangram pieces

  • How to Be a Math Genius

    by Mike Goldsmith, illustrated by Seb Burnett

    This is a great read for kids who love colorful, humor-laden books full of facts, puzzles, tips, and mathematical experiments. One distinctive aspect of this book is the way it frames math with bits of history, giving context to the concepts it introduces. Delightful factoids — such as the mystery of “Clever Hans,” a German horse that could allegedly do math — add another element of intrigue. Math topics explored include number systems, Pascal’s triangle, primes, geometry, probability, data, and codes, among several others.

Which books do your math-loving kids enjoy? Let us know in the comments section below!