City Shapes by Diana Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 

Summary:  Rhyming text follows a little girl around the city, finding different shapes in what she sees.  Shapes include a square, rectangle, triangle, circle, oval, diamond, and star.  The watercolor and collage illustrations are colorful and busy, making it a fun challenge to find the items mentioned in the text.  An author’s note tells of her love for New York City that inspired this book, and the illustrator’s note explains how he created the pictures (and that the girl in the book is his four-year-old daughter).  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier has created a bright visual feast on every page of a book that would make an excellent introduction to shapes.  Kids will be inspired to find shapes in their everyday lives.

Cons:  Only seven shapes are introduced.




Outdoor Math: Fun Activities for Every Season by Emma AdBage

Published by Kids Can Press 

Summary:  Simple but fun activities for learning math are arranged by season, with an emphasis on getting outdoors.  Measure worms in spring, count clouds in summer, play pick-up sticks in fall, and make snow shapes in winter.  Each listing begins with materials needed, which are all either objects that are found outside or simple household items.  Explanations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are given at the end.  Includes an index of activities, arranged by mathematical concept.  26 pages; grades PreK-3.

Pros:  This Swedish import makes learning math fun and healthy.  The activities are simple enough for preschoolers to enjoy, but include mathematical concepts that are covered through the primary grades.

Cons:  You’d have to live in a four-seasons climate to do everything.

Place Value by David A. Adler, illustrated by Edward Miller

Published by Holiday House

Summary:  A group of cooking monkeys demonstrate how place value works.  Starting with the concept of using 26 letters to make up words, they show how ten digits make up numbers.  Just as rearranging letters gives words different meanings, so does moving around the digits in large numbers.  The concept of place value to show ones, tens, hundreds, and on up is introduced and reinforced with several examples.  A brief history of the Hindu-Arabic number system and its basis in the number ten is given.  There are also explanations of the comma in large numbers and the decimal point, with a brief explanation of numbers to the right of the decimal.  32 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  A fun introduction to an important mathematical concept.  The illustrations add a light touch.

Cons:  The information about decimals may be a bit too much for kids just learning about place value.

Shape Shift by Joyce Hesselberth

Published by Henry Holt and Company

Summary:  A boy and a girl introduce nine shapes: triangle, semicircle, crescent, trapezoid, rectangle, circle, oval, diamond, and square.  Then they start putting the shapes together to see what they look like.  A triangle on top of a semicircle can look like a ballerina or an elephant with a thousand balloons on his back.  A crescent on top of a trapezoid?  A bull ready to charge or a fish jumping in the sea.  The final two pages show twelve shape combinations and ask readers what they see.  32 pages; ages 2-6.

Pros:  A fun introduction to shapes that will have kids looking for geometry in their everyday lives.

Cons:  According to other reviews, the author has created two apps to explore shapes and colors, but they’re not mentioned anywhere in the book.

I See A Pattern Here by Bruce Goldstone

Published by Henry Holt and Co. 

Summary: Patterns can be made in many different ways. This book looks at some of them, such as sliding, rotating, flipping, squishing, and stretching. Photos show examples of different types of patterns occurring both in nature and works of art from around the world. “MathSpeak” boxes give mathematical terms for the different ways patterns are created. The last two pages show ways to create patterns of your own. Grades K-3.

Pros: An excellent introduction to patterns that could be used for both math and art. The pages are appealing with plenty of white space and colorful photos.

Cons: Although patterns seem cool and fun, I never really understood why they were emphasized quite so much in the elementary math curriculum.