I haven’t written about math much on this blog, but today will be different! It’s no secret that I’m a literacy gal and I use books in all of my lessons, regardless of the subject. The following books are mathematical poems and riddles that are sure to capture your students attention. The best thing about all three of these books? They can all serve as examples for your students to write their own math poetry. I think these are appropriate for late 2nd-5th grade (but I know I had some first graders who would’ve been able to solve many of these as well). It would be really neat to see the types of math poems your students could create and would really give them the ability to tap into those higher level thinking skills. Enjoy my reviews below!
[All images are © copyrighted by the authors and illustrators mentioned below. All rights reserved.]
First up, Edgar Allen Poe’s Pie. Authored by J. Patrick Lewis (awarded the title in 2011 of U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate and an Ohio guy – Go Buckeyes!) this has quickly become one of my new favorites in poetry since it’s release last year. You can read a great interview with Lewis about his work, poetic influences, and future plans here. He also authors a lot of other great titles you should check out this month as well. Here’s a quick summary from Barnes and Noble:
Is this poetry? Math? A brainteaser? Yes! It’s all that and more. The poet J. Patrick Lewis has reimagined classic poems—such as Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and Langston Hughes’s “April Rain Song”—and added a dash of math. Between the silly parodies and the wonderfully wacky art, kids will have so much fun figuring out the puzzles,
they won’t guess they’re learning! Answers appear unobtrusively on each page, and engaging information about the original poets is included. Math games and concepts, poetry and poet biographies—it’s all so cleverly put together. This funny book is a treat for fans of words and numbers alike.
Each page features a re-worked poem from a famous poet with a mathematical twist. The answer appears at the bottom the the page (make sure your students don’t peek).
The poems range from easy to hard, so they can be used at a variety of age and proficiency levels.
The best part of this book, for me though, is the short biographies Lewis included at the end of the book. Each poet is highlighted for the students to gather a bit more information from. I think this would be a great tie-in to a biography study you could do in connection with poems AND math. Three topics in one – hooray!!!
Mathematickles by Betsy Franco is a story of a girl and her cat as they travel through math filled landscapes. Franco uses addition and subtraction, multiplication and division of words to illustrate her point (see below). I had this book in my classroom and my students really loved the story and the illustrations. This is a bit more poetry, less math than Lewis’ story, but still fits into this genre.
Your students would need to have a concept of how math works as well as a comprehension level to understand what Franco is trying to point out. As you see in the first illustration below, you could tie in a simile and metaphor mini-lesson with this text. Students could start with a metaphor, for example, and then could build their poem around it, using illustrations to further get their point across.
And finally, I couldn’t write about math literature without mentioning Greg Tang, right? Although he has lots of great math literature, I think the following would be the one that fits best into the “poetry” study.
This book is the most appropriate to use with your youngest students. The riddles are manageable and if you’ve had Greg Tang’s books out in your classroom before, they’ll be familiar with his work. Much like Lewis’ book, Math for all Seasons is a book full of math riddles for your students to follow. The answers are at the back of the book, so you can hide them from your students better. Plus Tang gives visuals for the students to use as they read. That’s particularly helpful for kindergarten or first grade students. Also these visuals allow for students to use one-to-one correspondence to find their answer. I think you could utilize this book in a small group with your students so that you are able to see their thinking as they work through each page.
You could also use this book to discuss how extra information is sometimes given and it isn’t needed. Students can see through Tang’s highlighting and different print color, what he’s asking you to solve. But you could type each page up and project them to have students find the question and eliminate that unnecessary information. Also in the back, where the answers are, Tang offers a worded explanation with an accompanying number sentence.
I hope these books help you reach other content areas through this genre of poetry. By having your students write some of their own mathematical poetry, you may be able to reach your more literal learners. Students who have a hard time writing fictional stories in writing workshop, may enjoy this style of writing a lot better! Check back tomorrow when I share some great books to use while teaching haiku poems for National Poetry Month.