Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Circle, A Square, A Book Over There

The concept of shape serves as the basis for most geometric learning in the early elementary grades. Children are regularly asked to identify and describe objects in their environment that depict plane geometric figures, often without regard to position and/or orientation in space.

Studying these simple figures (circle, triangle, square, rectangle) in our daily lives is one of my favorite math activities. In addition to what we can see in the classroom, at home and the world outside, there are many terrific pieces of literature that allow children to examine these figures. In this list of books you will find selections that present shapes in a variety of interesting ways and, where possible, include children representing diverse backgrounds.
  • I Spy Shapes in Art by Lucy Micklethwait - This book takes art appreciation to a new level by using the "I Spy" format to encourage children to find geometric shapes in paintings.
  • Museum Shapes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art - Using pieces of art owned by the Met, children are encouraged to recognize shapes and geometric forms in the details of the pictures. A key at the end identifies the artwork presented.
  • Shapes by Philip Yenawine - Using the paintings of Picasso, Seurat, Gauguin, Malevich, Mondrian, Arp, Klee, Smith and Dali, readers are asked questions relating to the shapes that are present.
  • Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Thong - Illustrated beautifully by Grace Lin, this book takes readers on a tour of a young girl's neighborhood where the shapes she sees are celebration of Chinese culture.
  • A Triangle for Adaora by Ifeoma Onyefulu - Using full color photographs, readers learn about life in an African village while Ugo and his cousin Adaora find a variety of shapes (squares, circles, ovals, diamonds, etc) while searching for a triangle.
  • Shape Space by Cathryn Falwell - When a young gymnast opens a box to reveal a variety of shapes, she tosses them out and balances on them, builds with them, and even wears and dances with them.
  • Icky Bug Shapes by Jerry Pallotta - Who wouldn't love a book that uses bugs to introduce readers to basic shapes? Kids love this one.
  • The Wing on a Flea by Ed Emberley - In this update of the 1961 (I have the original!) text, Emberley using rhyme and simple pictures to show where we might find circles, triangles and rectangles in the world around us.
  • Ship Shapes by Stella Blackstone - When two children and a dog set sail, they search for nine basic shapes on the sea. In Barefoot Books tradition, this one is illustrated with bold colors and beautiful artwork.
  • Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins - In this wordless picture book, two wooden dolls rearrange a variety of shapes (blocks) to form different objects.
  • Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh - While keeping an eye out for the cat, three creative mice play in a pile of shapes. They build a house, a tree and a sun, but when the cat comes back, they build the best shapes of all.
  • Lois Ehlert has created two books that introduce colors and shapes with illustrations of shapes on die-cut pages that form animal faces when placed on top of one another.
  • When a Line Bends . . . A Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Greene - Watercolor and ink illustrations accompany verse in this book that presents the shapes of circle, square, triangle, diamond, rectangle, octagon, oval, star, heart, and crescent. Each shape has a its own double-page spread with lots of examples.
A square was sitting quietly
Outside his rectangular shack
When a triangle came down--keerplunk!--
And struck him in the back.
"I must go to the hospital,"
Cried the wounded square,
So a passing rolling circle
Picked him up and took him there.
  • Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews - This simple counting book shows readers where circles appear in the world around them.
  • A String of Beads by Margarette Reid - A young girl and her grandmother spend time together stringing beads to make necklaces. The beads come in many different shapes.
While not a book, you should most definitely take a look at these songs and poems about shapes.
Since the focus here is on plane figures, I have not included books relating to 3-D shapes (cones, cylinders, cubes, etc.) or any other aspect of geometry. Please let me know if I've missed any of your favorite shape books.


  1. Two of my favorite shape books are
    William Wegman's Triangle Square Circle and Gwenda Turner's Shapes

    These are both for the younger set; the first is a board book, in fact. But they both go beyond square/circle/triangle with interesting hooks (dogs in the first case, die-cuts in the second)

  2. It is a very good blog and it is one of my favorite article.
    Wide Circles