Dusting the Book Shelves

Thank you for stopping by!

Moving my blog from one host to another wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated. Other tasks took priority and I abandoned this project for a while. I am back now and hope to be adding new content very soon.

Thank you for your patience as I dust off the shelves and make way for new books.



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New Home for Beth’s Bookshelf


If you are reading this you have successfully navigated your way to the new Beth’s Bookshelf home. I am so glad you are here. Take a look around and get familiar with the new digs. Soon you will be able to find all of the same resources that were available on my Blogger site. I ask your patience during the transition.

I am so excited to be here and look forward to sharing more books with you.


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One of the 11 Best Illustrated Books of 2011, Stuck by Oliver Jeffers would not be at the top of my list of books that can be used to teach traditional math concepts. However, I think it is a fantastic book for conveying the value of perseverance and persistence in problem solving. The story begins with Floyd getting his kite stuck in a tree then proceeds with his comical attempts to throw a variety of different items into the tree in his attempts to dislodge the kite.

Read aloud Stuck to your students then discuss the attributes that helped Floyd solve his problem. For example, persistence, trying alternative solutions etc. Relate these attributes to solving math problems. Later, when student face a challenging math problem, remind them of Floyd.

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Eat Your Math Homework

My favorite new book for the math classroom is Eat Your Math Homework Recipes for Hungry Minds by Ann McCallum. Students won’t report to class claiming their dog ate their homework with activities such as the ones McCallum has cooked up. These tasty recipes can be followed at home or at school for a tasty snack of milk and math.

The recipes begin with “Fibonacci Snack Sticks” where children learn about patterns and sequences with a side of math history as they skewer a variety of ingredients to create edible patterns. Other recipes including “Fraction Chips,” “Tessellating Two-Color Brownies,” and Probability Trail Mix” will have students coming back for seconds.

Teaching Tip
Invite parents to join the class and assist small groups of children as they cook up some math.


Since posting this entry the author has developed a Web site and educator’s guide to support the book. You will find it at http://www.eatyourmathhomework.com/

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While I was away for the summer break a new book found it’s way to my desk Teddy Bear Math by Barbara Barbiere McGrath. This book can engage children in a delightful exploration of counting, estimation, sorting, addition and graphing. The rhyming

verse encourages readers to grab handfuls of Teddy Bear counters for a variety of activities. Even if you do not have a classroom set of the commercially available bear counters this book is a great addition to your classroom library.

An earlier book by McGrath, Teddy Bear Counting is a perfect companion to the new title. Together, the two books help children build Number Sense and develop counting skills.

Teaching Tip Substitute beans as an inexpensive alternative to the teddy bear manipulative. I suggest dried white beans that can easily be spray painted red, yellow, purple, blue, orange and green then used for all of the counting and sorting activities

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Ten Flashing Fireflies

“What do we see in the summer night?
Ten flashing fireflies burning bright!
Catch the one twinkling there
Like a star.
One flashing firefly in our jar.”

One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting on my grandmother’s porch at dusk waiting for the fireflies. Some nights all of the cousins would happily run around and try to catch them other nights we would lazily watch as in unison they seemed to float into the tree tops.

Ten Flashing Fireflies by Philemon Sturges beautifully depicts this summer ritual in an imaginative counting book that is the story of a brother and sister catching and counting fireflies then releasing them back into the night.

Teaching Tip
Counting seems such a simple concept from our adult perspective, but for the young child learning to count can be a daunting task. For starters they must learn the number names and the counting sequence, then it gets more complicated with concepts such as cardinality (knowing that the last number said identifies the total number of objects in a group) and stability (knowing that rearranging the position of objects in a group does not change the cardinality). To help youngsters master these complex mathematical ideas we must give them many opportunities to count. Reading books such as Ten Flashing Fireflies can help. Luckily, children often like books read to them over and over again, so each time we read with them we can ask questions that help them learn to count. First, have them count along with the characters. Then, ask them to predict what comes next. For example, when the children have three fireflies in their jar then catch one more ask how many fireflies are now in the jar. Have objects available such as beans, pennies or some other small item and have children use them to represent the fireflies. They can add a bean to a jar (or pile) each time another firefly is captured. After reading they can count the objects again and again.

What other ideas might you have for using Ten Flashing Fireflies to teach basic counting concepts?


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Welcome ISI Participants

Today I enjoyed a delightful morning with the Illuminations Summer Institute participants talking about my favorite topics: children, mathematics and literature. Welcome to those of you who have found your way to my blog following the workshop.

During the session I mentioned that my favorite source for guidance and inspiration about the integration of math and literature are David and Phyllis Whitin. They co-authored New Visions for Linking Literature and Mathematics. It and the two titles David co-authored with Sandra Wilde (Read Any Good Math Lately?: Children’s Books for Mathematical Learning. K-6 and It’s the Story that Counts:More Children’s Books for Mathematical Learning) are fantastic resources. In my humble opinion the books are “must-haves” for every teacher’s resource library.

In New Visions, the Whitins lay out a 4-part criteria that serve as a guide when selecting good math-related books. They believe the literature should demonstrate:

1. Mathematical integrity
2. Potential for Varied Response
3. An Aesthetic Dimension and
4. Ethnic, Gender and Cultural Inclusiveness

There are literally thousands of pieces of children’s literature to sift through before you find the gems that make good resources for the elementary math classroom. This simple criteria serves as a great tool for identifying great books.


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Favorite books? Advice?

Happy Saturday everyone! Welcome to all the new folks who have recently found their way to my bookshelf. Thank you for the e-mails that let me know you are enjoying your browsing. I welcome your comments, you can leave them here or write to me at bethsbookshelf[at]aol[dot]com http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=bethsbook-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0873534395&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

I would actually like to hear from you on something specific–this weekend I am preparing for a workshop that I’ll give Monday morning to a small group of teachers who will be developing lessons for the Illuminations site. I am always eager for an opportunity to talk about children’s literature and mathematics. As always, I have already gathered far more books than I will be able to share during the two-hour session. Help me edit myself down so I focus in on the best of the best. When someone asks for suggestions on great book for teaching math concepts what are the top titles in your list? Do you have any advice as far as what makes one book better than another to use during your math lessons?

Today I’ll leave you with a few sources for teaching ideas:

The Wonderful World of Mathematics: A Critically Annotated List of Children’s Books in Mathematics is the first teaching resource for math related children’s literature that I bought for my personal collection. Now in it’s second edition, this book is analyzes the content of more than 550 titles. Chapters organize the books by math topic.

Hand’s on Math and Literature with Math Start is a fantastic new series written by Don Balka and Richard Callan that is packed with great teaching activities and reproducibles that extend the mathematics found in Stuart Murphy’s Math Start series. Of course Murphy’s titles can always be counted on to engage children in math concepts. Now this series by Balka and Callan help you extend the investigations with more hands-on activity ideas that explore the math concepts with more depth.


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Who sank the boat?

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=bethsbook-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=080503854X&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrMr Grumphy’s Outing by John Burningham and Pamela Allen’s Who Sank the Boat? provide the perfect excuse to splash around in a cool tub of water on a hot July afternoon. In both stories the characters pile into the boats until they reach maximum capacity and ultimately sink the boat. As each new character is introduced children can make predictions of what will happen next. After reading the book children can investigate the sinking scenario as described below.


Teaching Tip

A lot of math and science can be explored with this activity. Give each child or small group a square sheet of aluminum foil (6″ x 6″) and ask them to shape the foil into a boat. Then children then place identical objects (marbles or bottle caps or pennies or paper clips etc.) into their boats until the boat sinks. The goal is to place the most objects into the boat before it sinks.

A detailed lesson plan for the foil boat activity can be found here. Extend the lesson by having different students use different objects then chart the results. Which objects needs the fewest to sink the boat? The most?

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Patriotic Math

Like everyone else I am taking a long-weekend to celebrate the anniversary of America’s independence. In the meantime, here is a source for patriotic math activities.

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