Sunday, March 04, 2007

Used Bookstores and the Poetry of Math

I dragged my son to cantor practice with me Friday afternoon. He was not pleased (he hates it when I sing), but well-behaved nonetheless. As his reward (oh heck, my reward too), we went to a lovely little consignment shop that has a huge room full of used books. Upon arrival we both promptly took seats on the floor and began rummaging through stacks of hardcover picture books. William found some I Spy (four of them for $5 each!) and Curious George books, as well as Eloise, his new favorite. I was delighted to find an enormous stack of poetry books. I'm always amazed that people can part with books in this fashion, as I can't stand to give a single one away. I did find several treasures, including Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems and The Great Frog Race: And Other Poems by Kristine O'Connell George, mammalabilia by Douglas Florian, and a copy of Please Bury Me in the Library by J. Patrick Lewis.

However, my two favorite purchases were mathematical poetry books. These are:
  • Marvelous Math: A Book of Poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins - 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.
These books will make a nice addition to my growing collection of math poetry books which includes:
  • Mathematickles! by Betsy Franco - 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!"
  • Riddle-Iculous Math by Joan Holub - This very funny book contains verbal puns, riddles and rhymes based on math.
  • Ten Times Better by Richard Michelson - This quirky book of poetry uses the idea of multiplying by 10 to present facts about various common and unusual animals.
  • Mr. R's Math Poems by Mr. R - Grouped by grade level, this book has a range of funny poems written by a teacher just for elementary school kids. You can read some examples at Mr. R's web site.
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.
Finally, check out Scholastic's Max's Math Adventures for a whole series of activities in math that are based on math poems. (I know, it's not a book, but many of the poems appear in the Liatsos book.)

So, crack open a few of these books and let yourself learn to like math, even just a little. Trust me, math can be fun!


  1. While I was lurking on your blog, I came across your math poems section and thought you might be interested (maybe) in my book Practical Poetry, A Non-Standard Approach to Meeting Content Standards (Heinemann 2005) which contains a chapter on writing poetry in math class. If I were tech savy enough, I'd put a link in for the book, but I don't know how (sigh). Great post -- there are some titles here I don't recongnize and I'll have to check them out.

  2. Thanks.

    As a Maths teacher looking to create cross-curriculum materials for teachers of teens I appreciated the list of "Maths + Poems"