Sunday, April 03, 2011

Poetry in the Classroom - Math and Poetry

I thought that at least once a week during this trek through April it might be helpful if I put together a thematic list of poetry titles. Since math and poetry are two of my favorite things, this seems like a great place to start.
Arithme-Tickle: An Even Number of Odd-Riddle Rhymes, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz - These 18 rhyming riddles present word puzzles to be solved. Answers are written upside-down below each entry.

Mathematickles!, written by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Steven Salerno - This book offers brief poems using forms suggested by mathematical processes, all within a seasonal framework changing from fall to winter to spring to summer. As it says on the cover, "words + math + seasons = Mathematickles!"

One Leaf Rides the Wind, written by Celeste Davidson Mannis and illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung - This book is set in a Japanese garden where a young girl counts the things she sees, like bonsai, koi, and lotus flowers. The left side of each spread contains an illustration of the objects being counted. On the right side of each spread is the printed numeral, a haiku describing the objects, and a footnote introducing readers to various aspects of traditional Japanese culture.

Ten Times Better, written by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Leonard Baskin - This quirky book of poetry uses the idea of multiplying by 10 to present facts about various common and unusual animals.
Einstein, the Girl Who Hated Maths, written by John Agard and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura - This is a book of fun and funny poems about the world of math. (This is from the UK, hence the word maths.) To get a feel for the poems in this book, listen to Agard read the poem Keeping Fit. One of my favorite poems, Triskaidekaphobia, is illustrated with a variation on Munch's The Scream!

Marvelous Math: A Book of Poems, collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Karen Barbour - This collection of poems, by a variety of authors, looks at math in interesting ways, and allows students to see how math is useful in everyday life.

Counting Our Way to the 100th Day!, written by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Steven Salerno - In this book Franco offers up 100 poems that include the number 100 in some form.

Riddle-Iculous Math, written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Regan Dunnick - This very funny book contains verbal puns, riddles and rhymes based on math.

Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voices by Theoni Pappas - Theoni Pappas has written a wide range of mathematical books, most of the them for secondary classrooms, but the dialogues in this book are appropriate for elementary kids.

Greg Tang has written a series of books that use rhyme and riddles to get kids thinking about creative problem-solving. Titles include:
Here is an example from Math-terpieces, a book that uses famous works of art to get kids thinking mathematically.
Peachy Keen
For Paul Cezanne, still lifes would do,
A cloth, a vase and peaches, too.
His planes of color, pure and bright,
So smartly capture form and light.
Can you make 10 with bowls of fruit?
Find all 5 ways if you're astute!
I wouldn't think of teaching basic math concepts without copies of Where The Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. Some of my favorite math-related poems are:
  • Band-Aids
  • Hungry Mungry
  • One Inch Tall
  • Smart
  • Eight Balloons
  • Shapes
I also have a couple of teacher resource books on using poetry to teach math. These titles are well worth the investment.
Here are some additional resources for thinking about math and poetry.
Finally, here are some poems I use each semester when I introduce the subject of the teaching of math to future teachers. I generally begin by sharing some mathematically-inclined poems, including Sandburg's "Arithmetic" (I actually show a video ), Numbers by Mary Cornish, "Take a Number" by Mary O'Neill, and this little gem by Patricia Hubbell.
by Patricia Hubbell

Pi r squared is forty-two,
Diameter is three,
Two and two add up to four,
(Do you love me?)
X and Y equations,
Add the number two,
Twelve and twelve are twenty-four,
(I love you.)

Poem ©Pat Hubbell. All rights reserved.
That's it for now. Do you have a favorite mathematically-inclined poem or a book of mathematical poetry? If so, please share!


  1. Hahah! Grapes of Math. Love that. I wish now that I'd had a single math group to teach when I was still teaching - the tradition in that school was to break up a single classroom into three groups, so teaching with some of the fun stuff was a bit trickier - but I would have welcomed a little round-up like this to give me inspiration!

  2. Wow, this is an amazing list!