My kids love bedtime because that’s our special reading time as a family. Every night, since they were born (and even a few nights before they were born), my wife or I would read to our son and daughter. It soon became a cherished part of my evening in Los Angeles (before I jumped onto conference calls with the Everest team in Vietnam).
Obviously, reading a lot with our children helped improve their love of reading and their literacy skills. But we also found ways to sneak in math concepts into our reading as well. Here the Everest team has compiled five great reads that incorporate math for kids of various ages. We hope these help you widen your children’s math vocabulary and fluency. And that you have fun together!
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1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle
As the newborn caterpillar snacks through the pages (leaving behind a hole to stick a little finger through), he gets bigger, fatter, and turns into a lovely butterfly with wings the color of Swiss cheese, oranges, and cherry pie! Carle brings humor to the development of the caterpillar, one of the first science miracles a child learns.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of the most popular stories of all time because the counting lesson is embedded into the story. In fact, it has been voted the best children’s bedtime story ever! The holes in the foods (that the caterpillar has munched on) draw little fingers into them, adding another dimension that really appeals to children.
Malba Tahan is the creation creator of a celebrated Brazilian mathematician looking for a way to bring some of the mysteries and pleasures of mathematics to a wider the public. The adventures of Beremiz Samir, The Man Who Counted, take the reader on a journey in which, time and again, Samir summons his extraordinary mathematical powers to settle disputes, give wise advice, overcome dangerous enemies, and win for himself fame, fortune, and rich rewards. We learn of previous mathematicians and come to admire Samir’s wisdom and patience.
Tahan also includes asides on the lore of number “perfect” numbers (that are equal to the sum of their divisors, excluding the numbers themselves), numerical friends, magic squares, the weird properties of the number 142,857, and so on. In the grace of With Tahan’s graceful storytelling, these stories mathematical tales hold unusual delights for the reader.
“I love The Man Who Counted. The book transports you into a magical world of Bedouins, viziers, sheiks, princes, and kings, rich in reference to Islamic traditions and locations in the Middle East. The math is gentle, accessible, and drives the stories.” – Alex Bellos, author of The Grapes of Math.
3. Sir Cumference and the First Round Table
by Cindy Neuschwander
Join Sir Cumference, Lady Di of Ameter, and their son Radius for wordplay, puns, and problem solving in this geometry-packed math adventure. King Arthur was a good ruler, but now he needs a good ruler. What would you do if the neighboring kingdom were threatening war? Naturally, you’d call your strongest and bravest knights together to come up with a solution. But when your conference table causes more problems than the threat of your enemy, you need expert help. Enter Sir Cumference, his wife Lady Di of Ameter, and their son Radius. With the help of the carpenter, Geo of Metry, this sharp-minded team designs the perfect table conducive to discussing the perfect plan for peace.
The first in the series, Sir Cumference and the First Round Table lets us explore the world of bar graphs and pie charts in a fun, accessible way, helping children take the math lessons to heart.
“My 4 year old loves this book! It’s a fun story and has a nice recap at the end that makes it easy for kids to remember diameter, circumference and radius. But, I was happily surprised to discover that the book covers much more than circles.” – Deanna Bush.
4. The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger
This international best-seller makes math a thrilling exploration. In twelve dreams, Robert, a boy who hates math, meets a Number Devil, who leads him to discover the amazing world of numbers: infinite numbers, prime numbers, Fibonacci numbers, numbers that magically appear in triangles, and numbers that expand without. As we dream with him, we are taken further and further into mathematical theory, where ideas eventually take flight, until everyone – from those who fumble over fractions to those who solve complex equations in their heads – winds up marveling at what numbers can do.
Hans Magnus Enzensberger is a true polymath, the kind of superb intellectual who loves thinking and marshals all of his charm and wit to share his passions with the world. In The Number Devil, he brings together the surreal logic of Alice in Wonderland and the existential geometry of Flatland with the kind of math everyone would love, if only they had a number devil to teach it to them.
Saving the best for last, Bedtime Math contains over 1,600 math problems with various zany topics, ranging from electric eels and chocolate chips to roller coasters and flamingos. Bedtime Math encourages a fun, intellectual dialogue between parents and kids about math. With three different levels (wee ones, little kids, and big kids), there’s something for everyone.
Best of all, Bedtime Math also comes with a free app to help families “make nightly math as common and beloved as the bedtime story.” There’s a “sky’s the limit” challenge question that can tap from algebra to geometry topics. (We’re recommend you don’t use the math app as part of bedtime, but maybe right after dinner and before you start calming down for the the night.)
“Behind this book beats a heart of pure genius. Author Laura Overdeck wants to make the pleasure and beauty of mathematics a part of children’s routines—outside of school, away from textbooks, and at the coziest time of everyone’s day.” – Wall Street Journal.
By including books that include mathematical concepts in bedtime routines, parents can contribute to the mathematical development of their children. At the same time, discussing math in this fun context makes numbers and math less stressful when children encounter these topics again in school.