Mathematical Concepts in Childrens Books

Big Bear, Little Brother by Carl Norac.

Big Bear, Little Brother is a children’s book aimed at children ages 3-5. At a first glance, it seems to be a beautiful story about a child who has lost his way and Big Bear looks after him until he finds his Dad. However, when reading the book again with fresh eyes – there are many mathematical concepts throughout this book.

Here is a list of words that I found throughout the book that can be linked to maths:

  • above
  • quickly
  • huge
  • behind
  • side by side
  • slowly
  • “to make sure the ice was thick enough” – this is a good one, evaluating the ice bridge and deciding if it is thick enough to cross, a lot of mathematics in this!
  • different
  • down
  • edge
  • much taller
  • copy
  • “mound of snow”
  • faster
  • same
  • twice
  • stopped
  • distance

This is 18 different words that can be explored and worked upon – however, every time I read the book I keep changing how many ‘math words’ there are! I started this blog with ten, I am now on eighteen! The story itself can also have mathematical concepts and activities can be planned.

For example, some activities that can be planned could include:

  1. Making footprints in the snow, and counting the number of footprints, exploring different sizes and shapes, and seeing if patterns or symmetry can be explored
  2. Compare and contrast all the different words and bring this into the classroom (for example Big (bear) and little (brother). What else is big and little? Faster, slower, quickly, stopped. Look at all these and see if we can compare and contrast.
  3. In the last few pages of the book – it is dark and windy and the headlights shine on Big Bear and Little Brother. Maybe having a cross curricular lesson that involves lights, shadows, size, symmetry etc.
  4. Simple tasks such as counting how many pages there are in the book, how many times a word is said in the book, how many footprints are on each page etc.

These are just some little examples that can be explored through this book – however, there are probably 100 more different ways to implement this book in the classroom and link it to other subjects. For example Minik (little brother) falls of the cliff at the start of the book, and big bear catches him – this could be linked to science and could look at speed and force (eg drop things from a height and measure how fast they fall). It could also be linked with maths and languages – how many footprints are there? Tres! (Three!).

I have only read this book a few times, and only studied it in depth about 30 minutes ago. But in that time, I have noticed how mathematical concepts are featured in this book, and how important it is that when we are reading childrens books there can be different mathematical concepts in all of them.

2 Replies to “Mathematical Concepts in Childrens Books”

  1. I think it’s amazing finding all these mathematical concepts that we’ve never really thought about before, and realising how these can be used as resources in the classroom. Thank you for showing me another!

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