5 Reasons to Read in Math Class

Looking for ideas or reasons to read in math class? Learn why this is such a powerful tool to learn & explore math and find math picture book resources to get started.

I will never forget my first day in my Reading Across the Curriculum class as part of my graduate studies. The goal and purpose of the class was to learn how to integrate reading and good books into any and all classrooms. As a future math teacher, I scoffed at this frustrating requirement. “This is great. This class will be relevant to everyone but me. How unfair! How unnecessary!” Surely there was no reason to look for ways to read in math class.

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And then the class began. It was one of the most useful classes of my educational journey and I discovered that there are wonderful math books that beautifully weave math into fun, engaging stories! I am sure elementary teachers are much more aware of some of these great books, but there are also many out there that I was able to incorporate into the middle school math class!

There are so many reasons why teaching math through math stories can be helpful to students. I’m sure you can think of other benefits, but here are some of my favorite reasons to include picture books in math lessons, whether you teach preschool or middle school.

5 Reasons to Read in Math Class:

1. Reading Picture Books is Engaging

Do you have students that are disinterested in math (don’t we all??)? By incorporating fun and engaging stories, students can get excited about the characters and drawn into the story with them (often not even realizing that they are thinking about math along the way).

Introducing something new using a picture book can be an easy way to provide interest and engagement for something your students might otherwise not care about or listen to.

2. Reading Makes the Math Less Intimidating

Some math topics can be complex, overwhelming or anxiety-inducing for kids (and adults, for that matter). Starting with reading a story can make the complex or overwhelming more relatable and easy to digest.

With fun stories and simple explanations, kids can discover and understand difficult math topics in a more meaningful way. Often, math stories will teach a particular math skill in the context of a real life situation, and suddenly, something that didn’t make sense is being put to use in a context that kids can understand.

3. Picture Books Can Present a Math Topic in a New Way

Have you ever seen a struggling student suddenly have that ‘lightbulb’ moment? Sometimes it just takes one more opportunity to see, visualize or think about a math concept before something clicks.

Presenting a math concept in the context of a story allows kids to see it in various ways. This can be helpful for all students, but especially those who are struggling. Seeing it presented in story form may be just the thing a student needs to finally “get it.”

4. Math Stories Encourage Meaningful Math Discussions

Reading about the math in the context of a story will more naturally encourage deep math discussions, even among young children. They will want to discuss the characters’ problems and possible solutions, what they thought about the methods used, or maybe other ways that they could have solved things.

If you want to get your kids talking or thinking about different applications of a particular math concept, read a story together that naturally weaves it in. Then discuss it together as a group!

5. Reading About Math Makes it Real and Relevant

Lastly, math stories make math real, meaningful and relevant, without any work on the part of the teacher! What a great and easy way to engage students in a particular topic without a lot of prep or work. 🙂

It is essential that students of all ages see math in real ways, and think about its relevance to their life and the world around them. Reading stories that show math used in real contexts and how real problems are solved will help students see math in their own life and make connections they might not have otherwise.

So yes, I have come to LOVE incorporating great books into the math classroom! There are so many fun, engaging math story books out there, but to help you get started, check out the book lists by topic listed below. For more options, great reviews and lists sorted by topic, check out The Best Children’s Books page.

Math Picture Book Suggestions:

Do you love the Sir Cumference picture book series from Cindy Neuschwander? Me too!

Read Tips to Teach Math with Sir Cumference for enrichment ideas & free resources!


Looking to dive deeper into this topic? You might be interested in my PD course, Teaching Math with Children’s Literature.

In this course, you will learn practical ideas for when and how to include picture books in your lessons, as well as how to choose the right math picture book for your purpose.

Learn More About Teaching Math with Children’s Literature HERE.


How do you incorporate reading and stories into math class? What are some of your favorite math stories? Share in the comments!

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