Exciting news! I’ve been asked to be a guest blogger on the award-winning web series “The Secret Life of Scientists.” The NOVA web series on PBS kicks off this Wednesday, September 22.

Plus, it’s Nonfiction Monday. See Wrapped in Foil for all the great nonfiction posts and books in the children’s literature world this week.

And finally, I’m judging nonfiction picture books for the Cybils this year. I’ll be on the first round panel, so I think I’d better clear a few bookshelves. I can’t wait to see what’s nominated!

MATH VS. WORDS

These are my books.

I love words, but I hate math. I struggled in math, and even considered changing my major from science to avoid the math. Glad I didn’t, but I still double check myself at times using my fingers. I think Ms. Calvin in 4^{th} grade was the cause! Even though she did bring in slides of her extensive travels.

However, I turned out to be a good elementary math teacher for the struggling kids. I went through every single step and that seemed to make it clearer. Real math teachers often rush through the obvious steps, but they weren’t obvious to me. I understood how those kids felt.

Now I’ve come across these two books. I wish they’d been around when I was in elementary and junior high school (geometry made me cry) and when I taught math.

So what’s a science blog doing with math? Quantitative data–data that deals with numbers. Science requires keeping information and a great deal of it is math. Genetics, anyone? These two books can help equally the quick-thinking child or one who requires more explanation.

*Math, A Book You Can Count On,* reaches the early elementary–aged kids.

*Help Your Kids With Math* addresses the basics and then moves on to higher levels, including algebra, statistics, and more scary terms and functions you must know in higher mathematics.

So take a look at them both. Maybe they will open new doors–or maybe they will help someone who also hates math learn to like it a little more.

* *

*Math*

*A Book You Can Count On!*

By Dan Green

Created by Basher

Kingfisher, 2010

ISBN # 978-0753464199

Ages 7-12

Nonfiction

This book takes the reader page by page from numbers to data, and everything in between. Narrated by a cartoony character, the text is humorous and informatively kid-friendly while defining the concepts. The opposite page illustrates the math concept until the data chapter, where the illustrations grow smaller to better include the more detailed information. The book includes an index, a glossary, and a tear-out math poster. I can see a kid poring over the information and reading just to find out how it’s said in a funny way.

**Activity**

Plant a bean seed, a radish seed and a corn seed in three separate cups. Water regularly. Collect the data on a day by day chart. When the first seed comes up, use a metric ruler to measure it. Keep the data for each plant every day for a month. Then graph the data. Use a different color for each kind of plant. The line graph will show the changes over time. Then compare the differences and write word problems with the data. You can do something with ratios, too, I think!

Practice creating a few line graphs using the data here.

This site has some good information, too.

* *

*Help Your Kids with Math*

DK Publishing, 2010

ISBN # 9780756649791

Ages 8 and up

Nonfiction

This book starts with an introduction to numbers and the basic operations. It goes on to explain using text and excellent visuals all the other math concepts, progressing from the simple functions to the higher level math concepts, including algebra, statistics, and probability. The text is dense and informative, explaining in detail each concept so that it builds on the previous one. The extensive reference section holds huge amounts of information, with a glossary and index that follow.

The book says it’s for parents struggling to understand their kids’ math, but I liked it for those great readers who might better learn the math by reading about it. This would be a wonderful reference text and there should be one in every math classroom.

**Activity**

Have the students develop their own activity relating to one of the topics from the book. Have them calculate the answer, and then demonstrate the activity to the others. An idea might be to measure a column in the building and calculate its diameter, or create a folded geometric shape and calculate the surface area. You may come up with a better idea—or the kids might!

National Science Standards: science as inquiry

Books provided by publishers–Kingfisher and DK Publishing