The Power of Picture Books

​​​When we think of children’s picture books, we automatically think of their value in literacy learning. However, picture books can be equally engaging and powerful, as a vehicle to teach children mathematical concepts.

Using picture books as an instructional tool for numeracy concepts, aligns with BCE’s Numeracy and Mathematics strategy’s Four Key Dimensions for developing confident and numerate students :

  1. To foster engagement and develop a positive mindset towards mathematics

  2. To put the emphasis on building knowledge of concepts, before tackling fixed procedures like algorithms

  3. To provide multiple opportunities that promote problem solving and reasoning.

  4. To engage with and apply mathematics in real world contexts

When children’s literature is used to explore mathematics, it can provide a model, illustrate a concept, pose a problem and stimulates an investigation. Research in this area of education reveals that using story to teach mathematics has many positive outcomes:

  • Provides potential for children’s social and emotional growth

  • Encourages positive dispositions and motivation toward mathematics

  • Promotes a language of mathematics – exploration of concepts using oral language aids in cognitive development

  • Children see the purpose of problem solving when steeped in a real-world context when it is relevant and real

  • Provides the opportunity to put to use many valuable skills when engaged in problem solving – visualisation, creativity, stimulates investigation and manipulation of concrete items to explore maths concepts,

  • Links are easily made between other areas of interest including art, literacy, the natural world


Following are some book suggestions to begin exploring mathematical concepts through children’s literature:

  • Baby Goes to Market - Atinuke Angela Brooksbank – an introduction to numbers
  • The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins – exploring number concepts, sharing concepts
  • Today we have no plans – Jane Godwin – exploring the concept of time – days, weeks, calendars
  • Uno’s Garden, The Waterhole – Graeme Base – counting and number concepts
  • One Minute – Somin Ahn – a book about measuring time
  • One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab – exploring creative thinking with numbers
  • My Even Day, One Odd Day, My Half Day – Sylvan Dell – even and odd numbers, and a playful introduction to fractions
  • Sir Cumference and all the King’s Tens – Cindy Neuschwander - a clever introduction to place value
  • Which One Doesn’t Belong? – Christopher Danielson – focuses on justifications and arguments based on shapes and geometric properties.
  • Who Sank the Boat – concepts about capacity
  • Mr Archimedes Bath – more concepts about capacity
  • A Very Improbable Story – Edward Einhorn – discovering chance and probability

As you can see, the topics are almost endless, and I am sure each family has their favourite book based on mathematical concepts to share. The Maths Association of Victoria provides a selection of titles for you to browse https://www.mav.vic.edu.au/resources/primary- resources/item/579-picture-books.html We hope to ‘top up’ our school library with many of these titles, which will be available next term for you to borrow and enjoy.

This is one way to join us on the journey to develop confident, successful learners and users of Mathematics where every learner counts.

picturebookmaths.jpg