How Parents Can Integrate Math with Reading
By Danny Brassell, PhD
By Danny Brassell, PhD
Welcome to my third article for “PreK + K Sharing.” I am passionate about helping parents, teachers and administrators create a lifelong passion for reading in children. Looking back at my past blogs, I see I offered some general reading tips for parents of young children (blog 1), as well as ways parents can help improve their children’s vocabulary.
In this installment I’d like to focus on how to integrate math with reading. First, I’d like to briefly talk about a fun approach one school uses to excite children’s reading passions. Then I’d like to dive deeply into how I use great books to spark my children’s interest in math.
Pick up almost any newspaper or watch the television news nowadays, and you are bound to hear about how far behind Americans lag their international counterparts in math. Why is that? I’d argue that the current school system addresses math as an abstract concept rather than a practical daily skill. Most kids – and adults, for that matter – do not see the usefulness of geometry, algebra or even basic deciphering (“that’s what calculators and computers are for,” I’ll often hear). As your child’s parent, you can foster a love for math in your child.
My eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son attend a lovely neighborhood school that sponsors an annual family math night. Parents and children get to shuffle from station to station, measuring objects or telling time, playing addition bingo or guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar. Upon completing each station, students earn tickets that they can redeem at the end of the evening for various prizes. Not too complicated, yet this annual school function that only lasts from 6-8 p.m. on a Wednesday evening in January has evolved into an event that students talk about for months. The Parent-Teacher Association created the event, and it is a hit with kids and parents alike.
Math was always tough for me as a child. I managed to get the concepts, but I was never interested in them. Once I became a teacher, I quickly realized that I could not adequately teach students subjects I had no passion for, so I set out to make math fun. While I did not think up the wonderful family math night that my children’s school offers, I did create plenty of games. More importantly, I read tons of fun, math-oriented books to my students, and I do the same with my own children at home today.
Here are a few “hits” you can share with your children:
One by Kathryn Otoshi. Absolutely one of my favorite read-alouds. It will take less than five minutes to read, but high school students enjoy this book as much as preschoolers. It tells the story of Blue, who might not be as calming as Green or vibrant as Yellow, but Blue is cool with being Blue – except when Red shows up. Red always puts Blue down, and while the other colors like Blue, they are scared to defend Blue. Then One shows up one day and tells Red a thing or two, prompting the other colors to intervene on behalf of Blue. Your children will learn about numbers and counting and colors, but most importantly they’ll learn how each of us “counts” and sometimes it just takes “one” to make a difference. It is an extraordinary book.
Missing Math by Loreen Leedy. I love getting my budding mathematicians excited about reading with great math literature, and Loreen Leedy is one of my favorite “math” authors. In this fun poem, Leedy introduces readers to what the world would be like without numbers, prompting plenty of giggles among your little ones.
Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn’t Fit by Catherine Rayner. From the publisher: “Ernest is a rather large moose with a rather large problem. He is so big he can't fit inside his book! Luckily, Ernest is also a very determined moose, and he and his little chipmunk friend aren't going to give up easily. With some tape, odd bits of paper, and plenty of enthusiasm, the pair constructs an enormous gatefold page by themselves, and everything fits together in the end.” And I can tell you that your children will want you to read this again and again. Simple, but endearing!
Of course, there are tons of great math books available to parents, dealing with concepts like patterns and shapes, operations and equations, time, fractions, problem solving – anything. Librarians and book geeks like me can help you with titles. Your responsibility is to sit with your child and introduce them to an exciting world of mathematical possibilities with great books.
For a list of math-oriented books for your child, email Danny at firstname.lastname@example.org with your child’s age, gender and interests and he will compile a customized list for you.