If you’ve followed my site for any length of time, you probably know about my love affair with math story books. Even though I’m a math teacher, I have always loved reading and spent my summers as a kid devouring book after book. So it only makes sense to me to combine math learning with great books! I’m beginning this series on math story books with the best books to teach addition and subtraction. I could start with something even more basic like counting, but honestly, you can use virtually any children’s picture book to teach and practice counting (and I encourage you to do so!). So today I’ll be sharing (after MUCH research) which books I love the most.
*Please Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and help support the work of this site. Read our full disclosure policy here.*
Before I dive in, you may want to read the introduction to this series: 5 Simple Ways to Teach with Math Story Books. In that post, I share some ideas for how you can incorporate math books into your curriculum and the various ways that they’re useful.
I also want to share a really helpful perspective that I read in this post on the types of math story books that are out there.
The author of that article breaks books down into three tiers:
- Tier one books are written specifically to teach a math concept. They may or may not have a story line.
- Tier two books have an engaging plot and weave math into the story. While the connection to math is fairly obvious, the story could stand on it’s own.
- Tier three books are books that are not necessarily written to focus on a specific math skill, but could easily be used to make connections to math.
I usually like to focus on tier two and tier three books when I’m using them to teach or explore a specific math concept, because I think they are more engaging and relatable for kids. You can, however, find good quality and engaging tier one math books, you may just need to look a little harder (The Best of Times by Greg Tang is a great example).
You will also notice that tier one books tend to be in the nonfiction section of the library, where as tier two and three will be with the other picture books.
The goal of this list is to share my favorite books and ones that I think would be the most effective in teaching addition and subtraction. It is not meant to be comprehensive-there are tons of other books out there! So feel free to do some more digging (especially on Pinterest) if you can’t find these books at your library.
The Best Books to Teach Addition and Subtraction:
One Hundred Hungry Ants (tier 2) by Elinor Pinczes is an engaging story that has a fun little rhyme that kids may enjoy saying together as you read. This book is a great way to learn about the different ways to make 100.
Ten Flashing Fireflies (tier 2) by Philemon Sturges is a cute story and would be especially fun to read outside in the summer as you look for fireflies of your own. This book could be used to teach adding 1, as well as to focus on the number bonds of ten.
(You may also like this free printable game which would go along with this book perfectly!)
Ten Apples Up On Top (tier 2) by Dr. Seuss is another fun and engaging counting tale that can be used to practice adding within ten or working on the number bonds of ten.
Mission Addition (tier 1) by Loreen Leedy is a book that could be used to review various addition methods as well as important vocabulary. There are short stories within the book that each focus on a different addition related concept.
Similarly, she has a book called Subtraction Action which explore various subtraction methods in real life contexts.
12 Ways to Get to 11 (tier 2) by Eve Merriam is another fun book that helps kids see that there are lots of different ways to make up a number. You could also look at the different number bonds for 11, or have kids write equations to represent each page and then see that all the equations are equal.
My Little Sister Ate One Hare (tier 2) by Bill Grossman is sure to have kids rolling in laughter! This silly tale can be used to challenge kids to add together everything that she ate, one page at a time. You could also use it to look at strategies for adding such as making ten or counting on.
Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins (tier 2) by Dianne Ochiltree is a great way to practice adding doubles.
Splash! (tier 2) by Ann Jonas can be a fun read aloud and challenges kids to think about addition and subtraction as animals get in and out of the pond. You could also have kids write equations for each page to show the total.
How Many Blue Birds Flew Away? (tier 1) by Paul Giganti is a great book to help kids focus on using subtraction to answer “how many more” questions (i.e. “How many more apples are there than oranges?”).
Caps for Sale (tier 3) by Esphyr Slobodkina is one of my favorite books. And while this book is certainly not written or intended to teach addition and subtraction, it is a classic and I think it lends itself well to being used for math. You can have kids add the different colors of hats, as well as practice subtraction if you take one of the colors away.
Rooster’s Off to See the World (tier 2) by Eric Carle is great introduction for kids. I love Eric Carle’s books, but had not heard of this one before, so we were excited to read it together! This book includes pictures to represent different quantities. You could also make up problems as you read such as, “How many cats + frogs?” or “How many more fish are there than cats?” etc.
A Fair Bear Share (tier 1) is a cute story that shows how to make groups of ten to add double digits. This is definitely more of a “math book” than some, but it has lots of helpful pictures to visualize adding with regrouping.
If you have girls who love princess stories, you will love this fun twist on the classic, The Princess and the Pea. The Real Princess: A Mathemagical Tale (tier 2) by Brenda Williams is full of numbers that you can use to count, add or subtract.
Ready, Set, Hop! (tier 2) by Stuart Murphy is a funny tale of two frogs in a hopping competition. This book not only focuses on addition and subtraction to solve more than and less than problems, but also shows kids how to write them as equations.
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons (tier 2) by Eric Litwin is definitely one of my son’s favorites! He is a huge Pete the Cat fan, so he loved reading this with me. This story focuses on subtracting one, and also writing subtraction equations. In addition, it teaches an important lesson. 😉
If your kids love Pete the Cat too, be sure to see this page which includes a reading of this story so your kids can sing along! (scroll down to the “Sing Along with Pete the Cat” section).
I really enjoyed Elevator Magic (tier 2) by Stuart Murphy. Kids will love the fun discoveries on each floor, and I think this would be a great book to read as you practice subtracting with a number line.
The Action of Subtraction (tier 1) by Brian Cleary is another fun book to introduce the idea of subtraction. It’s a fun and engaging rhyme that explores different ways to take away things. It is also rich in vocabulary.
And finally, This Plus That by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is such a fun book that I had to include it, even though it doesn’t actually teach addition. This could be a great way to introduce the idea of equations though, and how we write equations, or a fun way to incorporate writing into your math class (have students come up with their own “life equation”).
I would also like to add that there were some books that looked promising, but I was not able to find them at my local library. I haven’t read these, but they may be helpful if you can find them at your library:
- The Sundae Scoop by Stuart Murphy (combinations)
- Shark Swimathon by Stuart Murphy (subtracting 2-digit numbers)
- Addition Annie by David Gisler
- One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab by April Sayre
- 365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental
- Mall Mania by Stuart Murphy
- 1+1=5: And Other Unlikely Additions by David LaRochelle
- Jack the Builder by Stuart Murphy (counting on)
What do you think? What do you consider the best books to teach addition and subtraction? Share in the comments! 🙂
Free Printable Book Lists!
Did you find this list helpful? Then you'll love the handy printable version I've made! Just print out the book list, take it to the library, and check them off as you read them. Plus, this set includes 2 pages of books not included in my blog series! That's 8 lists of engaging math stories in all.