Friday, August 20, 2021

Books that explore Math

Warning: School days are closer than they look on the calendar! So today I’m sharing two books that brush up on math concepts in a fun way. The first takes us deep into the rainforest.

theme: math, biodiversity, comparisons

Tree of Wonder: The Many Marvelous Lives of a Rainforest Tree
by Kate Messner; illus by Simona Mulazzani
pages 36 ; ages 5-8
Chronicle Books, paperback edition, 2020

Deep in the forest, in the warm-wet green, ONE ALMENDRO TREE grows, stretching its branches toward sun.

Flip a page and it’s two macaws, then four toucans, then eight howler monkeys. Can you see a pattern here? There are snakes, frogs, butterflies, and ants! So many cool animals to look at and count.

What I like about this book: Three-quarters of the spread is given to lyrical text and detailed illustrations of the tree and the animals that live in and around it. Then a panel shows the number (four), the correct number of animals (four toucan icons), and an additional layer of text providing more facts about the animal. I love how the last page brings it all back together: 

Life multiplies again and again … in this ONE ALMENDRO TREE.

Back matter provides more information about the Almendro tree, more playing around with math, and resources to read, watch, and explore for kids who want to know more about the rainforest.

Comparisons Big and Small
by Clive Gifford; illus. by Ana Seixas
48 pages; ages 5 and up
Kane Miller, 2020

 Did you know that a spinner dolphin can jump higher than a double-decker bus?

If you’re looking for a fun way to introduce comparisons, this book is filled with ‘em. Each spread focuses on one type of comparison: length, speed, weight. What I like about this book is that it is browseable – perfect for the kid who wants to dive in at random and explore a page. Vertical spreads offer interactive ways to interact with the book. And there are plenty of “quick quizzes” scattered throughout. Some of my favorite sections are about bugs, comparing countries, being a dino detective, and space stuff. For sports buffs there’s a section about record-breaking throws, and lots of comparisons on how fast animals can run and how high they can jump.

Beyond the Books:

How fast can you run?
Mark a starting place on the sidewalk or playground, then have a friend with a watch time you for 10 seconds. Measure the distance you covered. Then compare how far you went in that time to how far other animals can go: a caterpillar? your cat or dog? a beetle?

Compare the heights of people in your home or classroom. Compare how far people can throw a tennis ball. What other things can you compare?

Try some doubling math. Get one hundred things to use as counters: dry beans, pennies, macaroni elbows, beads, legos. Then line up five or six bowls. Put two counters in the first bowl. Then put four in the next. Double that number for bowl # 3. When do you run out of counters? Bonus: if you got a penny on the first day of September, and every day after that you got double the number of pennies (day 2 = 2 pennies, day 3 = 4 and so on) how much money would you have by the end of the month?

We’ll join Perfect Picture Book Friday once they resume. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers.


  1. Great books for #PPBF, Sue. I love the idea of life multiplying in the ONE ALMENDRO TREE! Looking forward to examining this one. Thanks for the introduction.

  2. I'm curious as to what power of two Tree of Wonder stops at, LOL. Will have to take a look. I love the pop of bird colors midst the black and white rainforest background on the cover. The browsable comparison books sounds interesting. I enjoy learning new tidbits of info that I can then regale my husband and son with over dinner, LOL. It breaks up the conversations about SpaceX...