Math Classics

One of my favorite things in life is books!!! Reading books, talking about books, looking for more good books! Ahh…that is the good life.

I also love learning, and teaching. So finding books that teach…nirvana!

The day someone told me about , was a great day. Julie Brennan has a created a wonderful resource there. Good enough that you should stop reading this and go visit. . . really!

Among the great things you will find at Julie’s website is a list of math literature. This list reignited my love of math. Here I want to share my new favorite list of math classics. Most of them I got from Julie, some I found on my own after being inspired by her. The comments are all mine.

For Adults

Math: An American Phobia by Marilyn Burns
Although Marilyn is really talking to school teachers here, I found so much that I could use in homeschooling. Her writing style is relaxed, reading her book is like talking to a good friend. Reading her book helped me feel less fearful of numbers as well.

Mathematics: Is God Silent by James Nickel
This wonderful book is highly technical, and way over my head, but I love it! I love the math history and I love the correlation between God and math

For Adults and kids:

Anything by Marilyn Burns! She is my math hero! I think that woman is a genius! Here are a couple of my favorites:
Amanda Bean’s Amazing Dream…my (then) 7 yr old daughter, and (then) 4 yr old son love to hear this book over and over. It’s so cute that I don’t mind reading it to them over and over. It’s a basic intro to multiplication. Neither my daughter or son were ready for times tables at that time, but they loved this book, and that is enough for now. My older boys even listened to it once or twice.

Spaghetti and Meatballs for all…another book I wouldn’t mind reading over and over! Who knew math could be so fun? In this one Marilyn Burns introduces division in a simple and humorous way.

The Greedy Triangle…although this picture book is written for a young audience, my children all ages adore it. I don’t know how many times my older boys have listened in as I read it to their younger siblings. It’s addictive. It’s a intro to geometry…the triangle goes to a “shape shifter” to be a different shape…really fun!After reading this book my children began to notice geometry shapes all around us. It also teaches a lesson that children and sometimes adults need to hear. . .stop comparing yourself to others and enjoy being YOU.

Math for Smarty Pants…my older boys (then 10 and 11) really enjoy this one. It is basically a collection of math puzzles or games. You can just open it up anywhere and pick something to do. This book really opened my eye to the concept that math is so much more than numbers. Wow! In fact, it was this book that inspired me that someday I would like to organize a “Math Fest” for homeschoolers. I mean why not, we have spelling bees, and Science Fairs, why shouldn’t math get it’s due?! More about that later.

I Hate Mathematics…after the year when my oldest son began to hate math because I was dutifully trying to make him memorize the times tables, this was one of the first books I “reintroduced” math with. I thought the title would intrigue him. It didn’t. I opened it up and started having fun with the activities inside and soon he joined me. Soon he was hooked. There is power in leading by example! I sincerely enjoyed the activities myself.

Greg Tang…

Is another of my math hero/authors. Here are some of his our family has enjoyed:

Math Fables…my daughter loved this book. It is a very simple introduction to addition, with beautiful illustrations of animals.

The Best of Times…its about multiplication. Although I faithfully memorized the times tables when I was a child, I find I have trouble remembering them today…but not enough to memorize them again. This book offers fun “tricks” that I use in a pinch! The kids don’t seem to like it as much as I do though.

My boys love these math riddle books (also by Greg Tang)
Grapes of Math
Math Appeal
Math for All Seasons
Math-ter-pieces….this is my favorite as it combines math and great art…its not the boys favorite though.

Cindy list of great math literature would be complete without her. She is so clever! Her “Sir Cumference” series that makes me laugh out loud, and helps me review my rusty geometry skills. All my kids, including my (then) four year old, love these. I want to collect them all! These are the ones we have read so far:
Sir Cumference and the Knights of the First Round Table
Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi

Murderous Maths! (they also have a website! Be sure and check it out

If my oldest son were making this list, he would put Murderous Math at the top. He adores these books. And that is quite an endorsement, since he used to hate math. These books are from England, but we have found we can get some great deals on them on Ebay…some are starting to show up in libraries too! Again here are some we have read and loved:

Vicious Circles and Other Savage Shapes (Murderous Maths)…this one I really got just for me. I loved geometry in high school, but can’t remember it. I wanted to brush up, but I wasn’t ready to tackle Euclid (I have it). When I read it and started laughing out loud, the boys wanted to know what I was reading! I read it out loud to them and we would all get out our protractors and do projects together. It’s been a few years since we did this so, imagine the boys were 8 and 9…I doubt that they remember much of it, but I don’t worry about that. Right now, I’m just trying to instill a love of math AND more importantly the beginning of skills that math teaches like logic, problem solving, and strategy.

Do You Feel Lucky? (Murderous Maths)…this is a book about probability. I got this book because the boys were intrigued by and always wanting to join some contest…like the kind on candy bar wrappers. I tried to explain to them their actually chance of winning to no avail. They understand now that those candy bar lotteries are a scam!

Here are some treasures by other authors:

G is for Googol by David Schwartz Wow! I found this at the library and I am so in love with this book, that I’m going to buy my own copy. Before I started reading this it I could not have told you what the Binary Code was, nor what it had to do with computers, now I get it! And whats better my boys do too! We also learned about Mobius strips, and all kinds of other really cool math stuff.

Circles: Fun Ideas for getting A-round in math I just can’t resist geometry! This book makes it fun. The kids think these projects are interesting to. I don’t ask them to join me, they just can’t resist. Even my husband picked up this book and was pleased to learn why circles are measured in 360 degrees. It’s because of the Babylonians, by the way.

Great Graphs and Sensational Statistics by Lynette Long I hadn’t had a chance to get to this one yet, but one day I found my (then) 11 year old devouring it. I was so excited. The boys have done a lot of math with me, but this was a first time of them seeking out a math book and doing it alone! He was doing a graph about probability and dice. When he finished I mentioned that I had bought some m&m’s for the candy graph, and suddenly his siblings wanted to do graphs too, imagine that. They had a great time. Lynette Long has other great books available about multiplication, division and others.

I will end with a favorite book that I LOVE. I just recently found it at the library. It’s another must BUY.

Math Games and Activities from Around the World by Claudia Zaslavsky
I was impressed with the combination of math and geography in this book. I started making “game boards” from this book and soon the children joined me…not only in making game boards, but looking on the globe to see where these games came from. One of our favorite games is Nerenchi from Sri Lanka. Check out this book, if you like games, you won’t be disappointed.

Okay, that’s my list. As I said before there is a great list at You couldn’t help but notice my list was mostly for younger kids. . .that is because that is where my family is, but if you check out Julie’s Living Math website, you will find math literature for high school and beyond.

Before I close…Math Fest…wouldn’t it be fun to have an activity centered around math? I am thinking that one would use activities from “Math for Smarty Pants” and “Math Games and Activities from Around the World”, and also some math games like Chess, Mancala, Muggins etc. And naturally, have some math literature on display. It could be fun, and show kids and adults that math is so much more than numbers.


Photo Attribution: Jiri Hodan

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