It’s easy to find grade-appropriate math books for your class, but hard to find ones that capably engage students while teaching essential skills and concepts.
Despite the challenge, there are story, activity and picture books that effectively focus on:
- Content — Explaining skills and techniques, as well as exploring ideas and information
- Processes — Providing exercises to help readers better understand content
- Products — Assigning materials, such as graphs and homework, for readers to demonstrate understanding
For students in 1st to 8th grade, below are 15 math books for in-class study and at-home practice.
1. The Doorbell Rang
Read this picture book with your class to introduce and reinforce basic counting and subtraction skills.
The story’s premise is easy to follow. A mother makes cookies for her kids, but friends ring the doorbell to join in. The kids in the book, helped by your students, must figure out how to divide the cookies. This relatable scenario not only contextualizes problems in a tangible scenario, but teaches the importance of sharing. Students can also follow along with counting beans or real cookies.
Grade Range: 1st to 2nd
Skills and Topics: Subtraction and critical thinking
2. Round Trip
Present Round Trip to your students to give them a detailed look at reflection and symmetry.
This book delivers its lessons in an abstract way, requiring you to run quick and intermittent discussions with your class. As a traveller, you enter a city illustrated through back-and-white pictures. At the end, you flip the book upside-down and read it again. This gives new meaning to the pictures and the story itself. It’s been a favourite adventure in many classrooms since its release in 1990.
Grade Range: 1st to 2nd
Skills and Topics: Symmetry
3. Each Orange Had 8 Slices: A Counting Book
Develop visual literacy skills while practicing counting and addition using Each Orange Had 8 Slices.
Accompanied by detailed and colourful illustrations, the book presents problems in easy-to-process sentences. For example, “If each orange has 8 slices and each slice has 2 seeds, then how many (seeds) are there in all?” These problems are suited to partner work and — for further engagement — students can use manipulatives such as counting beans. The book delivers a new scene and corresponding questions with each turn of the page, holding attention from cover to cover.
Grade Range: 1st to 3rd
Skills and Topics: Counting, addition and basic multiplication
4. Life of Fred Series
Recommend the Life of Fred series to your students to introduce and practice essential math skills through elementary school.
The series is divided into four sets of books, with each book containing 19 lessons that cover concepts relevant to most curricula. To engage readers, Life of Fred presents these lessons through stories about cats, ice cream and other child-friendly subjects. With full answer keys, the series lends itself to practice, review or learning entire skills.
Grade Range: 1st to 5th
Skills and Topics: Most, if not all, skills from 1st to 5th grade
5. The Grapes of Math
Improve abstract thinking and word-problem processing with The Grapes of Math.
A series of illustrated math riddles, the book presents readers with a poem and corresponding problem. This helps students improve reading comprehension skills as they search for clues and secrets to solve the problem — usually involving counting and grouping food and animals. Have them solve the problems in groups for a fun team challenge.
Grade Range: 2nd to 5th
Skills and Topics: Abstract thinking, addition and basic multiplication
6. Uno’s Garden
Appeal to visual learners by reading Uno’s Garden with them, enjoying an engaging story in the process.
The setting is a forest where the protagonist, Uno, lives. As more people begin to make homes in the forest, the wildlife’s makeup changes. Students must search for different plants and animals, completing puzzles and multiplication questions in the process. Plus, the book has a page that explains all the skills and concepts it contains.
Grade Range: 3rd to 5th
Skills and Topics: Addition and multiplication
7. How to Be a Math Genius
Show students they’re more capable mathematicians than they think by studying How to Be a Math Genius with them.
The book itself is an example of differentiated instruction. It contains content in the form of:
- Word problems
- Real-life examples
- Historical examples
What’s more, students can apply their knowledge through the book’s puzzles, brain twisters and science experiments. Its purpose is to help students try new approaches to learning math, helping them quickly see which tactics work for them.
Grade Range: 3rd to 6th
Skills and Topics: Multiplication, division, patterns, geometry and general problem-solving
8. This Is Not a Maths Book
Use this math book in disguise to teach geometry topics, such as angles, while tapping into students’ art skills.
The workbook asks its reader to draw tessellations using protractors, compasses and other tools. In doing so, students learn how to identify and create three-dimensional shapes and patterns. They may see it as a break from normal work, but they’ll continue to build key skills.
Grade Range: 4th to 7th
Skills and Topics: Measurement, geometry and spatial recognition
9. G Is for Googol
Teach topics ranging from math facts to non-curriculum concepts with help from G Is for Googol.
The book explores one or two math terms for each letter of the alphabet. Written in short prose and accompanied by illustrations, the explanations last a couple of pages. Covering topics such as exponents and equilaterals, students should finish the book with a stronger understanding of such material. But, as a math teacher, your favourite entry may be W, which stands for “When are we ever gonna use this stuff, anyway?” The section discusses real-life applications for the content you teach. Happy teacher. Informed students. More engaging math class.
Grade Range: 4th to 8th
Skills and Topics: Concepts outside most curricula, such as binary numbers
10. Sir Cumference Series
Read the Sir Cumference series with your class to develop skills in a medieval and fantasy setting.
With occasional help from his son and wife — Radius and Lady Di of Amater — the knight Sir Cumference must solve math-related challenges that pose threats to his family and kingdom. For example, magic turns Sir Cumference into a dragon. Radius must determine the proper antidote dosage by applying pi to his calculations. Other issues see the knight finding the area of circles and volume of cones. Bolstered by witty writing, this series will engage most of your students — especially those already interested in the genre.
Grade Range: 6th to 8th
Skills and Topics: Measurement and geometry
11. The Adventures of Penrose, the Mathematical Cat
Introduce ideas outside the curriculum by reading bits of this novel with your class.
Penrose appears to be a lazy, sleepy cat. But he grows interested in his owner’s math papers, learning about topics such as:
- The Mobius Strip
Penrose takes readers on adventures as he explains, simplifies and applies these topics. The book dedicates a few pages to each one, concluding with a series of questions to practice skills ranging from addition to square roots. Who knew cats were such good math teachers?
Grade Range: 6th to 8th
Skills and Topics: Concepts outside of most curricula, such as golden rectangles
12. Magical Mathematics
Offer a fun side task by assigning Magical Mathematics.
The book links popular magic tricks with mathematical formulae. For example, it looks at the math behind three-card Monte and pulling a specific card after certain shuffling sequences. What’s more, each trick introduces a new skill. And the authors provide step-by-step instructions for each one. For an engaging entry ticket, review and expand upon the book’s lessons.
Grade Range: 6th to 8th
Skills and Topics: Critical thinking and applying mathematical concepts to real-world scenarios
13. Mathematics: The Science of Patterns
Foster an appreciation for math in your students by requiring them to study Mathematics: The Science of Patterns.
Along with a brief exploration of math history, the book examines broad — yet important — mathematical concepts that are divided into six sections:
- Motion and change
It forgoes formulae to keep the content as straightforward as possible. Despite this, it explains many topics in precise detail, presenting a concept’s purpose and applications. There are explanatory images, too. By the end of the book, students should gain a better understanding about how to approach the study of math.
Grade Range: 7th to 8th
Skills and Topics: Concepts related to the six above-mentioned sections
14. Math Dictionary: Homework Help for Families
Send students home with this reference book to help them through homework and encourage their parents to lend a hand.
Containing more than 300 entries about math topics and concepts, readers can flip through the pages to find information related challenging problems. For example, it contains models, formulae and conversion tables to follow when solving certain questions. Parents usually see it as a handy resource to remember key concepts, encouraging them to guide their children when needed. It’s a mainstay on many children’s homework tables.
Grade Range: 1st to 8th
Skills and Topics: A range of concepts from 1st to 8th grade
15. Family Math
Encourage more at-home practice by recommending Family Math — a book full of games and activities that students can play with friends, siblings and parents.
The bulk of the book focuses on problems rooted in real-world math challenges, appealing to those who struggle to grasp abstract concepts. Students can solve these problems using common objects such as cups and cards. If the content seems too advanced for your class, consider the edition for young children. Fun for the whole household, you should see the learning benefits of family involvement.
Grade Range: 1st to 8th
Skills and Topics: A range of skills from 1st to 8th grade
Final Thoughts About these Math Books
The 15 listed math books will not only help you teach key skills and concepts, but create a more engaging math classroom.
At the very least, you can use this list as a starting point. Identify qualities of different books that appeal to you and would benefit your students, forming a complete idea of what you need.
With so many ways of using technology in the classroom, your students may welcome a book for a change.
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