About the Holiday
Today I’m excited to introduce the new Storytelling Math initiative by Charlesbridge with four board books by Grace Lin. Storytelling Math offers books that celebrate children using math in their daily lives as they play, build, collaborate, compromise, and discover the world around them. Each story features characters of color who are empowered to solve problems, enjoy activities, and help out using their knowledge of and experimenting with math. Free downloadable hands-on activity kits are available for each book on the Charlesbridge website. Sharing these joyful stories with your littlest ones and older kids will make them eager to explore, use, and learn more about math every day. You can learn more about Storytelling Math on the Charlesbridge website. And watch this space for more reviews of Storytelling Math books from your favorite authors!
Storytelling Math: Math, Diversity, and the Power of Story was developed with Marlene Kliman at TERC—a nonprofit dedicated to STEM education—under a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation.
Thank you to Charlesbridge who sent me copies of Grace Lin’s board books for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.
What Will Fit?
By Grace Lin
Olivia is at the farmers’ market ready to find a fruit or vegetable that will fill her basket just right. The small beet she tries just rolls around in all the empty space. An apple is bigger, but still too small, and a zucchini doesn’t fit any way Olivia tries. After trying another vegetable that isn’t quite right, Olivia spies a display she thinks might just work. “Hmm…how about a pumpkin?” she thinks. She looks them over, chooses one, and puts it in her basket. “Yay! Just the right size!” she exclaims.
Following the story, adults and children can explore math with the included discussion on how kids develop spatial sense. Learning how shapes fit together in different ways is an important concept in science, math, and everyday life. Then Douglas Clements, Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning, executive director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Denver, introduces activities that adults can share with kids to build their spatial awareness. Doing puzzles together, matching pairs of socks, shoes, or other items, and fitting a toy to a box are just a few ideas to try. Using special words – such as above and below, inside and next to, and up, down, and between – while doing daily activities teaches kids about positions, orientation, and other special relationships.
Age Birth – 2
Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541255
The Last Marshmallow
By Grace Lin
The snow is deep and Olivia and Mei have just come in from building a snowman. They slip out of their boots and warm coats. It’s a perfect time for mugs of hot chocolate—with marshmallows! They make two cups of cocoa and get out “three big marshmallows.” Olivia dunks one marshmallow in her cup. Mei floats one marshmallow in her cup. “There’s one left! Who gets it?” The girls gaze at the marshmallow and think. “I know!” Olivia says. “Pull!” Now the third marshmallow is shared by both Mei and Olivia. “Hooray! Yummy cocoa for both of us!”
“Exploring the Math” back matter reveals that even the youngest children have a sense of what is fair, even before they can count. Sharing can help kids “begin to develop real-world understanding of division and fractions.” Early childhood expert Douglas Clements also provides several Try This! activities to engage children in sharing even and odd numbers of items with two and three people. He reminds adults to listen to a child’s reasoning on how they share and why to discover what they think is fair.
Age Birth – 2
Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541262
Up to My Knees!
By Grace Lin
It’s springtime and Mei is planting seeds. With “dirt, water, sun, and time, what will happen?” Soon a plant sprouts! The little stem with its two leaves is just poking out of the ground. Mei notices that “it’s as tall as my toe.” She gives her plant “more water, more sun, more days” to grow. It continues to climb past her knees to her waist. Later, Mei measures her plant again. She reaches out her arm and sees that “it reaches my shoulders!” What does summertime bring? A sunflower that is taller than Mei!”
“Exploring the Math” paragraphs discuss how “young children learn about measurement as they compare the sizes of things around them.” Comparing things to their own bodies helps children make sense of using rulers and yardsticks as they get older. Early childhood expert Douglas Clements presents ideas for encouraging children to measure and compare items in relation to their own knees, arms, hands, etc.; compare lengths; and explain how they can tell, for instance, that a “cracker is wider than their hand.” He also reveals examples of vocabulary words that allow kids to think more deeply than simply “big’ or “small” about items and their measurement or size.
Age Birth – 2
Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541231
By Grace Lin
Manny, Olivia, and Mei are going to blow bubbles! First they stir up soapy water and get three wands. Manny’s wand is a circle, Olivia’s wand is a triangle, and Mei’s wand is a heart. Manny swishes his wand in the soapy water and blows. “My bubble is a ball—a sphere!” he exclaims. Next, Olivia dips her wand into the soapy water and blows through her triangle wand. “What shape will her bubble be? Another ball!” Perhaps Mei will blow a different shape. Come and see! So many bubbles float in the air! Mei, Olivia, and Manny chase after them. Clap…clap…clap. They “Pop! Pop! Pop!”
“Exploring the Math” back matter reveals how children learn about shapes as they explore everyday objects, such as boxes, tubes, and balls. “These kinds of experiences give children a hands-on foundation for later study of geometry.” Douglas Clements then gives parents and caregivers ideas for activities they can do with their children to enhance their math learning of shapes and how they are used. Clements also encourages adults to talk with their children about shapes and provides vocabulary that will give them the words to express their understanding and thinking about shapes.
Ages Birth – 2
Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541248
At their core, each of these board books by beloved author Grace Lin are sweet stories of three friends having fun throughout the year and exploring life through common experiences, which, just as in real life, hold organic connections to math concepts so important to understanding our world. Adults will love sharing these charming books that blend straightforward ideas with lyrical rhythms that will captivate little ones, make them giggle, and entice them to try filling a basket, blowing bubbles, planting seeds, and eating a marshmallow or two (adults will want to get in on that action too!) all while developing an awareness for relationships that will translate into a stronger understanding of math as they grow older, begin school, and proceed through the grades.
Lin’s brightly colored illustrations and adorable depictions of Olivia, Mei, and Manny playing, reacting, and spending time together will enchant little readers. As the three kids ponder dilemmas, readers can clearly see their intelligence and musings in their thoughtful faces. The images are also infused with the excitement of learning and discovery. The page spreads in each book incorporate other aspects of math as well, such as patterns, matching, and shapes plus opportunities for counting, talking about colors, and engaging with science.
Outstanding books to give as gifts for baby showers, new babies, or special events, What Will Fit?, The Last Marshmallow, Up to My Knees!, and Circle! Sphere! would make an often-read and -used set for home bookshelves and are musts to enhance any school and public library board book collection.
You can learn more about the Storytelling Math Books and find downloadable Activity Kits on the Charlesbridge website.
Discover more about Grace Lin and her books on her website.
You can find The Last Marshmallow at these booksellers
You can find Up to My Knees! at these booksellers
You can find Circle! Sphere! at these booksellers
You can find What Will Fit? at these booksellers
Picture Book Review