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Children's Books to Share the Beauty and Joy of Math

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

I am forever on the lookout for children's books about math! Especially books that are full of beauty, joy, and something mathematical to explore. I always used to look for books specifically about math, but now I just look for great books and then find a way to connect the math. My friend and colleague, Cheryl Snoble, and I have spent this last year on a quest to find amazing children's books and then connect them to Big Beautiful Problems to explore.


Here is one of our favorites so far: Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf by Davide Cali and Marianna Balducci.


This book is too funny! It is energetic, entertaining, and engaging. Be ready for lots of laughter! It is full of subtle opportunities for math exploration prompted by situations and images. Teachers, be prepared as there are also opportunities to learn about story writing, and STEM can be included as well - some piggy houses need to be built to protect them from the big bad wolf!


Anyway, here is the Big Beautiful Problem we adapted* to go along with this book.


PIGGY PROBLEM


There are 12 piggies that live on Bacon Street in 12 houses in a row. You are the big bad wolf and, wanting some exercise before a snack, you run up the street opening and closing the front doors of their houses following an interesting pattern.


The first time you run down Bacon Street, you open every single piggy house door.

Then you are tired, so you walk back to the beginning of the street.

The second time you run down Bacon Street, you close every second piggy house door.

Then you are tired, so you walk back to the beginning of the street.

The third time, you change the state of every third door; if the door is open, you close it, if it's closed, you open it.

Then you walk back to the beginning.

This pattern continues with every fourth door, fifth door, sixth door, all the way to the twelfth time you run down Bacon Street and only touch the twelfth door - if it's open, you close it, if it's closed, you open it.


After you've run down Bacon Street twelve times, there will be some doors left open - these are the piggies you can catch. Which doors are still open? Why?


*Adapted from Open Lockers - you can find it in the grade 8 Problem-Solving Resource at www.aliciaburdess.com


We have tried this problem with grade two students all the way to grade nine this year and it has been amazing. All you need is the book, the problem, and some double-sided counters. Students worked in random groups of two or three with one marker and a mini-whiteboard. Give them lots of time to explore. If you haven't read Peter Liljedahl's book Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, it might be the perfect time if you want to learn more about engagement, thinking, learning, and flow.

Hints (to use as needed as you circulate between groups; don't use them if they aren't needed):

What if you lined up your piggy houses in a row?

The wolf starts back at the beginning of the street every time.

Writing down the numbers of the houses above or below the counters can help you keep track of the houses.

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Do you see a pattern?

Why does the first house stay open? How many times does the wolf touch that door? What about the second house? What about the fourth house?


Extension: What if there were 25 houses? What if there were 100 houses?



Students working together to solve the Piggy Problem




























A sample solution to the Piggy Problem for 20 houses. Why are the red doors still open?


The Dragon Curve: A Magical Math Journey (in English and French)

My other passion is writing math adventures to explore. I am excited to share that Aiyana's magical math journey has just been released as a second edition, published by #codebreaker. Brian Aspinall and Daphne McMenemy have been amazing teammates and I am so grateful for this opportunity to share the beauty and joy of math with the world! Katrina Shirley has brought Aiyana's journey to life with her stunning illustrations and Thibaut Renard has translated her story to French! Grab a long, skinny strip of paper (or drywall tape) and fold along with Aiyana to discover the magical world of mountains, goats, boats, and dragons.


Aiyana finds a long, skinny strip of paper on the ground that looks like a road. As she follows the road, she folds the paper in half, and it becomes a mountain for her to climb. With every fold, she makes a new shape, one that fuels her curiosity in wonderful ways and takes her on a magical journey into the world of fractals. This is a beautiful story about the power of imagination, mathematics, and the world around us. It is a chance for readers of all ages to catch a glimpse of the beauty of math and inspire the joy of their own inner mathematicians.

Available on Amazon in English: The Dragon Curve and in French: La courbe du dragon


Stay tuned for more magical math journeys...







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