Using Picture Books to Help Children See and Talk About Math All Around Them

The use of cross-curricular tools can help children absorb and retain new knowledge better, and can help make learning challenging subjects less frustrating. Using picture books to learn math is a great example of using cross-curricular tools to enhance learning. Storytime or reading is already built into the routines and classwork of most children, whether it is at home or at school. Children typically enjoy this bonding activity, and it can be a great method to introduce math skills in a way they can better understand and remember them. Here are three of the reasons why picture books are an important tool for teaching math skills:

  1. Picture books create real-world context for using math skills

Picture books about math usually apply math skills to every day or real-life situations that will resonate with children more than a regular math lesson. This can help children become more able to understand word problems in math. Even picture books that relate math to fantasy situations will create context for using the math skills and stand out in a child’s memory. Studies have shown that using picture books to learn math skills leads children to bring up math-related terminology and topics without prompting in real-world situations, such as discussing quantities.

  1. Picture books help students who dislike or have a hard time with math enjoy learning math skills

Many children prefer reading over math, so finding new and creative ways to teach them math can be very helpful. Using picture books to teach math to a child who dislikes or is intimidated by math is like hiding vegetables in a sweet smoothie for a child who hates vegetables. It makes the experience more pleasant and helps the child embrace learning math rather than fearing or dreading it. 

  1. Cross-learning 

Picture books can not only help children absorb math skills, but it also boosts their literacy skills. Using reading to teach math combines two different subject matters and skills and enhances the learning of both. Just as a child who enjoys reading can be enticed to learn math skills through picture books, a math-oriented child can become more interested in reading by having books about math topics.

Parents and teachers can use picture books that are specifically designed to teach children math skills, or find creative ways to use picture books without an emphasis on math. If a child already has a particular favorite book, parents and teachers can find ways to turn this book into a math skills lesson. For example, adults could ask the children to count the number of red objects on the page or plan a math activity about the reading material. If a teacher reads “The Rainbow Fish” to the class, the teacher could then use goldfish crackers to illustrate counting, subtraction, and addition. There are lots of ways to incorporate picture books into learning math skills without having to purchase special books dedicated to teaching math, but many of these types of picture books exist at reasonable prices and can be excellent teaching tools. 

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