MATH Reading Challenge - Great Picture Books that can teach you (almost) everything you need to know about math

MATH Reading Challenge - Great Picture Books that can teach you (almost) everything you need to know about math

Raise your hand if you like learning from picture books! Me too!! In fact, it is one of my favorite cheats to #neverStopLearning.

Below I have organized 28 of our favorite books for learning. Look for these topics: Numeracy, Operations & Algebra, Geometry & Spatial Relations, and Math History.

Reading all these books with your children will be no small feat. But when you do you'll all be math superstars! 

Note: Most of these are written for children ages 4 - 8 and their parents.



Numeracy is all about getting familiar with the answer to "How many?" It is very very important and a topic that is explored for many years throughout elementary school. 


Museum 1 2 3 by The NY Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museum 123, Boco Learning, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

In this simple and elegant counting book from the world's most renowned museum, numbers are introduced to children through masterpieces of art. Each number from one to ten has four pages devoted to it. First, readers are invited to search for how many of a certain object they can find in a single piece of art. Then, they turn the page to discover four different works illustrating that number. Information about each piece of art and its creator appear in the back of the book. While kids practice counting, adults will love the cultural richness and educational value of this tour through the Metropolitan Museum's collection, from Ancient Egyptian tomb paintings and tenth century Iranian art to the work of Vincent Van Gogh and Homer Winslow.


Place Value by David A. Adler

Place Value, Boco Learning, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

You had better not monkey around when it comes to place value. The monkeys in this book can tell you why! As they bake the biggest banana cupcake ever, they need to get the amounts in the recipe correct. There’s a big difference between 216 eggs and 621 eggs. Place value is the key to keeping the numbers straight. Using humorous art, easy-to-follow charts and clear explanations, this book presents the basic facts about place value while inserting some amusing monkey business.


We All Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs, Julia Cairns

We All Went on Safari, Boco Learning, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

Join Arusha, Mosi, Tumpe and their Maasai friends as they set out on a counting journey through the grasslands of Tanzania. Along the way, the children encounter all sorts of animals including elephants, lions and monkeys, while counting from one to ten in both English and Swahili. The lively, rhyming text is accompanied by an illustrated guide to counting in Swahili, a map, notes about each of the animals, and interesting facts about Tanzania and the Maasai people.


A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman

Math Learning, Picture Book, A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars

Winner of the Mathical Book Prize

“This picture book is one in a gazillion.”—Jane O’Connor, the New York Times–bestselling author of the Fancy Nancy series

Did you know that the earth is covered in three trillion trees? And that seven billion people weigh about the same as ten quadrillion ants? Our world is full of constantly changing numbers, from a hundred billion trillion stars in space to thirty-seven billion rabbits on Earth. Can you imagine that many of anything?

The playful illustrations from New York Times–bestselling artist Isabel Greenberg and the friendly, straightforward voice of author Seth Fishman illuminate some of the biggest numbers in the universe—a hundred billion trillion stars—and the smallest—one unique and special YOU. Here is a book for story time, for science time, for math time, for bedtime, and all the times in between.

Perfect for curious children, classrooms eager for STEM content, and readers who have devoured Ada Twist, Scientist and How Much Is a Million?


Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell, Richard P. Campbell

Growing Patterns, Boco Learning, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

 The biggest mathematical mystery in nature—Fibonacci numbers! Named after a famous mathematician, the number pattern is simple: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13. . . . Each number in the sequence comes from adding the two numbers before it. What's the mystery? The pattern crops up in the most unexpected places. You'll find it in the disk of a sunflower, the skin of a pineapple, and the spiral of a nautilus shell. No one knows how nature came up with the sequence. Sarah C. and Richard P. Campbell introduce the Fibonacci sequence through a series of stunning photographs in this ALA Notable Children's Book. Young readers will soon be seeing nature through new eyes, looking for Fibonacci numbers in daisies, pinecones, leaf patterns, seashells, and more.


Operations & Algebra

Operations & Algebra are about figuring stuff out and seeing how numbers go together. These books make us want to figure things out and sometimes even show us how to do it! 

Anno's Magic Seeds by Mitsumasa Anno

Anno's Magic Seeds, Boco Learning, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

 A gift from a wizard makes Jack's fortune grow by ones and twos, then threes and fours, then faster and faster, challenging you to keep track of his riches.


Money Math by David A. Adler and Edward Miller

Money Math, Boco Learning, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

Trusted team David A. Adler and Edward Miller continue their series of popular math books. Amusing cartoon versions of American presidents guide children through this lively introduction to currency values and adding and subtracting money. Topics covered include an introduction to American units of money; the many ways these units combine to make a price; basic money symbols such as the dollar and cent signs; and the math inherent in shopping. After reading this, kids will be confident with their pocket change! A Junior Library Guild Selection.


You Can Count on Monsters by Richard Evan Schwartz

You Can Count on Monsters, Boco Learning, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

This book is a unique teaching tool that takes math lovers on a journey designed to motivate kids (and kids at heart) to learn the fun of factoring and prime numbers. This volume visually explores the concepts of factoring and the role of prime and composite numbers. The playful and colorful monsters are designed to give children (and even older audiences) an intuitive understanding of the building blocks of numbers and the basics of multiplication. The introduction and appendices can also help adult readers answer questions about factoring from their young audience. The artwork is crisp and creative and the colors are bright and engaging, making this volume a welcome deviation from standard math texts. Any person, regardless of age, can profit from reading this book. Readers will find themselves returning to its pages for a very long time, continually learning from and getting to know the monsters as their knowledge expands. You Can Count on Monsters is a magnificent addition for any math education program and is enthusiastically recommended to every teacher, parent and grandparent, student, child, or other individual interested in exploring the visually fascinating world of the numbers 1 through 100.


That's a Possibility by Bruce Goldstone

That's a Possibility, Boco Math, Boco Learning

With colorful photographs and interactive examples, Bruce Goldstone introduces children to the ideas of something being possible, probable, or impossible. Each spread features an easy-to-understand scenario such as dice rolling, with questions about probable outcomes and simple explanations. In the vein of Great Estimations, this is a perfect book for getting across important math concepts in a fun way.


Spaghetti and Meatballs for All! by Marilyn Burns and Debbie Tilley

Spaghetti and Meatballs For All! Boco Learning, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

Mr. and Mrs. Comfort are having a family reunion! Mr. Comfort starts cooking up his famous spaghetti and meatballs, while Mrs. Comfort carefully arranges eight tables and thirty-two chairs so that everyone will have a seat. The tables look lovely, the food is ready, and here come the guests--with their own seating plans!
This delightful Marilyn Burns Brainy Day Book uses wit and humor to draw children into thinking about area and perimeter. 


Lift-the-Flap Times Tables by Benedetta Giaufret and Enrica Rusina Rosie Dickins

Lift the Flap Times Tables, Boco Learning, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book 

Lift-the-flaps to find tips, tricks and practice questions to help you learn all the times tables up to 12x12. You can discover why the tables are so helpful, use the number machine to answer any tables question, and test your knowledge with the times tables challenge.


For the Youngest Learners these are some favorites for Operations:

Adding at the Circus by Hannah Watson

Adding at the Circus,, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

A brand new series of interactive board books to make it easier for children to learn math skills. Slide the simple mechanisms and see the picture change to show the result of the additions and subtractions, making math visual, concrete, and easy to understand!


First Math Slide and See: Subtracting by Sam Taplin

Subtracting,, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

Young children will love moving the sliders to do the simple subtraction problems in this book. A brand new series of interactive board books to make it easier for children to learn math skills. Slide the simple mechanisms and see the picture change to show the result of the additions and substractions, making math visual, concrete and easy to understand!

Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Lois Ehlert

Fish Eyes,, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

Now toddlers can dive into counting with this board book edition of one of Lois Ehlert’s most popular books. With cutout fish eyes to touch and an energetic fish friend to guide them, they’ll have so much fun they won't even notice they’re learning! 


Geometry & Spatial Relations

 Geometry & Spatial Relations are about shapes and how they go together. These books show you features of many shapes and allow you to imagine how they go together.


Museum Shapes by the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museum Shapes,, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

Introducing children to basic and complex shapes through the Metropolitan Museum's extensive and varied collections, this book features the work of a diverse range of artists. Each shape has two spreads. Full color. 


Sir Cumference Series by Cindy Neuschwander and Wayne Geehan

Sir Cumference, Boco Learning, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

From Book 1: 

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 Sir Cumference series, SIR CUMFERENCE AND THE FIRST ROUND TABLE makes math fun and accessible for everyone.


Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy

Seeing Symmetry,, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

This book is aligned with the Common Core State Standards for fourth-grade mathematics in geometry: (4.G.3).Once you start looking, you can find symmetry all around you. Symmetry is when one shape looks the same if you flip, slide, or turn it. It's in words and even letters. It's in both nature and man-made things. In fact, art, design, decoration, and architecture are full of it. This clear and concise book explains different types of symmetry and shows you how to make your own symmetrical masterpieces. Notes and glossary are included.

[Note form Julie: There is a typo in this book. Can you find it?] 


Triangles by David A Adler and Edward Miller

Triangles,, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

With bright illustrations and clear, kid-friendly language, this book introduces one of the most basic geometric shapes to young readers.  

Formed of three sides and three angles, triangles are everywhere—especially on the pages of this book, where two kids and their robot friend assemble a brand-new bot from different types and sizes of triangles.  

This title defines important geometry vocabulary in simple, accessible terms, reinforcing the text with illustrations of the different types of and relationships between triangles. Activities on identifying, measuring, and comparing angles help readers understand these important ideas.  

Drawing on his years of experience teaching math, David Adler's text thoroughly introduces fundamental mathematical concepts.  Colorfully illustrated by nonfiction veteran Ed Miller, this book is perfect for readers just beginning to study shapes and geometry.


Circles by David Adler and Edward Miller

Circles,, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

Wheels, clocks and coins. Balls and buttons. Circles are everywhere, and one of the basic geometric shapes. In a book bursting with color and cheer, students can learn the fundamental properties of circles. Terms such as sector, chord and arc are clearly defined. Hands-on activities demonstrate how to find the radium, diameter, and area of a circle. With this handy and lively guide kids can avoid spinning their wheels and get on the road to becoming geometry pros.


Squares, Rectangles, and Other Quadrilaterals by David A. Adler and Edward Miller

Squares, Rectangles, and Other Quadrilaterals,, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

Geometry is demystified in a new addition to a popular and amusing series of math picture books from a trusted team. 

Comical cats and dogs guide kids through the essential characteristics of squares, rectangles, parallelograms, rhomboids, and other quadrilaterals. Angles and degrees are explained in words and useful visuals. Kids will get a handle on geometric vocabulary and can try out plenty of hands-on activities that will help reinforce the concepts. A glossary is included.


Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes by Hena Khan and Mehrdokht Amini

Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes,, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

"A beautiful picture book that simultaneously explores shapes, Islam, and the cultures of the Muslim people." - Kirkus Reviews

Toddler book of shapes and Islamic traditions: From a crescent moon to a square garden to an octagonal fountain, this breathtaking picture book celebrates the shapes-and traditions-of the Muslim world.

Toddler book by author Hena Khan: Sure to inspire questions and observations about world religions and cultures, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets is equally at home in a classroom reading circle and on a parent's lap being read to a child.

If you and your child like books such as Lailah's Lunchbox, Numbers Colors Shapes, or The Name Jar, you will love Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets. 


Mapping Sam by Joyce Hesselberth

 Mapping Sam,, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book 

An adventurous cat named Sam explores her neighborhood at night in this gorgeously illustrated book. Informational, beautiful, and deeply moving, Mapping Sam is both a book about how maps work and an engaging, character-driven story.

For fans of Brandon Wenzel’s They All Saw a Cat and Sara Fanelli’s My Map Book (below), and for anyone who wants to know what is where and how to get from here to there!

Maps can show us streets and subways and cities and countries. But they can also show us what we can’t see, what we can only imagine, or how to build something. In Joyce Hesselberth’s Mapping Sam, Sam the cat puts her family to bed, and then—when all is quiet—heads out to explore her neighborhood.

As Sam follows her customary path, wandering farther and farther away from home, readers encounter different kinds of maps illuminating different points of view and the various spots Sam visits. Finally, when Sam reaches her favorite place and confirms that all is well, she heads back home, climbs onto a cozy bed, and falls asleep.

An ideal read-aloud for classrooms and libraries, Mapping Samfeatures a page of background information, as well as various maps and map terms throughout. Perfect for fans of Lynne Rae Perkins’s Frank and Lucky Get Schooled and Peter H. Reynolds’s The Dot.


My Map Book by Sara Fanelli

My Map Book,, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

Experience a child’s view of the world in this extraordinarily imaginative picture book about maps

"An imaginative, child-centered title that should be examined and enjoyed, and one that will also make a wonderful springboard for teachers introducing the concepts of mapping or autobiography," said School Library Journal.

In each spread of this bold and humorous picture book, children can examine their place in the world around them through detailed and engaging maps that are drawn from a child's perspective.

Twelve beautifully illustrated maps, such as Map of My Day and Map of My Family, will fascinate children, teaching about both mapping and telling one's story.

When finished reading the book, children can unfold the jacket—it turns into a poster-size map for them to use for drawing and creating.



Mathematics has a rich history. The History of Counting and the Story of Clocks and Calendars show you the history of the topics. Other books in this list feature mathematicians who helped shape the field of mathematics. 

Ada Byron Lovelace & the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu

Ada Lovelace,

Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world's first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities.

[Note from Julie: The description doesn't include how math is a key feature of her story told in this book.]


The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham

The Boy Who Loved Math,

Most people think of mathematicians as solitary, working away in isolation. And, it's true, many of them do. But Paul Erdos never followed the usual path. At the age of four, he could ask you when you were born and then calculate the number of seconds you had been alive in his head. But he didn't learn to butter his own bread until he turned twenty. Instead, he traveled around the world, from one mathematician to the next, collaborating on an astonishing number of publications. With a simple, lyrical text and richly layered illustrations, this is a beautiful introduction to the world of math and a fascinating look at the unique character traits that made "Uncle Paul" a great man. 
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013 A New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2013


Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D'Agenese and John O'Brien


In April 2015 Blockhead was named a Mathical Honor Book.
As a young boy in medieval Italy, Leonardo Fibonacci thought about numbers day and night. He was such a daydreamer that people called him a blockhead.

When Leonardo grew up and traveled the world, he was inspired by the numbers used in different countries. Then he realized that many things in nature, from the number of petals on a flower to the spiral of a nautilus shell, seem to follow a certain pattern. 

The boy who was once teased for being a blockhead had discovered what came to be known as the Fibonacci Sequence!
Blockhead is a 2011 Bank Street College -- Best Children's Book of the Year.

Blockhead has been translated into Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Catalan. Be sure to check for those editions of this title, if appropriate for your classroom!


The History of Counting by Denise Schmandt-Besserat and Michael Hays

History of Counting,

Drawing on years of research, a renowned archaeologist traces the evolution of counting. She shows how the concept of numbers came about, how various societies answered the question "How many?," and how our modern-day decimal system was developed. Engrossing and enlightening, this fascinating book introduces children to one of our most important inventions.


The Story of Clocks and Calendars by Betsy Maestro and Giulio Maestro

 The Story of Clocks and Calendars,, Boco Math, Math Learning, Picture Book

 Travel through time with the maestros as they explore the amazing history of timekeeping!

Did you know that there is more than one calendar? While the most commonly used calendar was on the year 2000, the Jewish calendar said it was the year 5760, while the Muslim calendar said 1420 and the Chinese calendar said 4698. Why do these differences exist? How did ancient civilizations keep track of time? When and how were clocks first invented?

Find answers to all these questions and more in this incredible trip through history.



BoCo Local?

I have curated a list at the local library system for BoCo locals:


Looking for more?

There are more books for young learners in the Boco Learning Collection including visual dictionaries and other creative ways to see math topics!


No one should stress over worksheets so I wrote the guide for learning math from everyday life...because when the world is your classroom you are free to learn math that matters.

Get started for free today.



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