You might have noticed the gradual shift to all things math around here because, well, I just LOVE talking to teachers about math. But if you’ve been with me for a while, you know one of my favorite strategies to teach a new concept is with a picture book – and that hasn’t changed! So while we’ll still be covering math topics each week, I’ll also be sharing some of my favorite read-alouds that bring math concepts to life. Up this week: 10 of my favorite books to teach geometry!
City Shapes by Diana Murray
City Shapes features a young girl who is walking through her city neighborhood while noticing a myriad of shapes around her. Each part of the book introduces a different shape through images and descriptive text before naming the shape, giving the teacher a chance to pause while reading to have students investigate the images being described before assigning a name to them.
This book is great to use with kindergarten and first graders. In the Common Core State Standards, kindergarteners, in particular, are expected to describe objects in their environment using the names of shapes. City Shapes is a great way to introduce an activity where students will do the same thing as the girl in the story: notice the shapes around them. A shape hunt would be a fun follow-up activity to this read-aloud.
Tangled by Anne Miranda
Tangled is a fun rhyming book about two-dimensional shapes that get stuck in a jungle gym. Sixteen shapes, including a circle, a triangle, pentagons, and more, get stuck there until a line shows up and problem-solves with the help of some three-dimensional shapes. Of course, connecting math to the playground makes everything so much more fun!
This book names a lot of shapes and even though the story is somewhat simple, it does not shy away from using vocabulary words like prism, polygons, and tetrahedron. It even has a little visual glossary of the shapes at the end of the book, which can be a helpful reference tool for students.
The story and vocabulary help make this book fun for kindergarteners up to 2nd graders. The CCSS have students analyzing and comparing two-dimensional shapes and this book can be used to do that. One of my favorite ways to use this story is by rereading it multiple times: for the story, to name the shapes, and to compare the shapes’ attributes.
Once students are familiar with the story, they can get to create their own jungle gym of stuck shapes. An activity like this could provide lots of opportunities for discussion about how students know the shape that they’ve drawn is a particular shape, leaving lots of opportunities to practice explaining their thinking.
Round is Tortilla: A Book of Shapes and Round is a Mooncake by Roseann Thong
Like City Shapes, Round is a Tortilla is another book about shapes in the environment. But this one has a Latino twist! It features two children who find shapes in their environment. Many of the shapes are Latino, including sombreros and abuela’s stew. It also has many Spanish words and includes a glossary at the end.
Similarly, Round is a Mooncake is another book by Roseann Thong in which a young girl finds shapes in her environment. This time though, many of the shapes focus on Chinese culture, including jasmine tea and red envelopes. Again, the end of the book has a glossary to describe the objects some people may not be familiar with.
Both books pack a serious one-two punch on your geometry shelf: representing different cultures and helping students learn about cultures other than their own. These stories can also be used to introduce shapes in the environment and connect to a shape hunt. For a larger project, students could work with their families to compile shapes that connect to their cultures. These books are wonderful for so many reasons!
When a Line Bends… A Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Greene
This is one of my all-time favorite books to teach geometry for grades K-3. Its rhyming text makes it fun to read and to listen to. It introduces shapes similar to some of the other books on this list, and takes things one step further by describing attributes. For kindergarteners, it’s easy to keep it simple and focus on the shape names and shapes in the environment.
On the other hand, the detailed descriptions of each shape, such as “A square is four sides all the same,” can help begin a discussion and investigation of the more detailed aspects of these shapes. The book describes a rectangle as “A rectangle is like a square with something rearranged.” Using these playful descriptions and the images of the shapes, students can discuss the difference between a square and a rectangle, opening the door for some great math discussions.
A Cloak for the Dreamer by Aileen Friedman
A Cloak for the Dreamer is a more complex story that’s better for grades 2 and 3. It is the story of a tailor’s sons who each make cloaks using only one shape. One son discovers that making a cloak out of circles leaves the cloak full of gaps. However, the cloaks made of triangles, squares, and rectangles don’t have this problem.
This book is an excellent resource to introduce angles. Even better? Have students design their own cloaks using pattern blocks to create a hands-on investigation that brings this story to life!
The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns
The Greedy Triangle is a classic! Although the story is simple, it can easily span grades K-3. In this book, a triangle is unhappy and wants just one more side and one more side until it has so many sides that it begins rolling.
This book is another story that introduces polygons, focusing this time specifically on the number of sides. It would be perfect to use in second grade when students are expected to recognize shapes with specific attributes, including the number of sides and angles. One of my favorite ways to use this book is to have students follow along with the story while also creating the shapes on a geoboard. This tactile addition to our read-aloud times keeps everyone engaged and thinking about the shapes at hand!
Sir Cumference series by Cindy Neuschwander
The Sir Cumference series is a series of fun stories on a variety of math topics including, you guessed it, geometry! In particular, Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter by Cindy Neuschwander covers the concepts of area and perimeter.
In the story, Per learns the game of Inners and Outers, a game about the area and perimeter of rectangles. Later it goes into the area and perimeter of a circle and other related topics. This book is perfect for leading third graders to make connections between area and multiplication and solving problems involving the perimeters of polygons.
Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone is another fun book in the series. This one would be a great addition to your bookshelf when teaching about geometric solids.
Mummy Math: An Adventure in Geometry by Cindy Neuschwander
Mummy Math is another book to teach geometry by Cindy Neuschwander. In this one, two children get trapped in a pyramid and need to use their geometry skills to understand the clues to find the way out. Students love to follow along with this adventure!
The clues in the story revolve around three-dimensional shapes and their attributes and provide a great opportunity for conversation. This is one of my favorite books to teach geometry because we’re creating and discussing predictions as each clue is revealed. The pace of this book sets the stage for meaningful and engaging math discussion.
Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch by Mary Peterson
While Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch doesn’t cover math concepts as explicitly as the other books on this list, it does help students investigate how to describe the relative positions of objects, which is a kindergarten concept you’ll find in the Common Core.
In this book, the piggies are described in relation to other objects, such as “under crinkly, clean sheets” and “over growing, green beans.” A great activity to bring this story to life is having students use blocks to build a structure and then describe it using similar positional words.
That activity can be extended and turned into a game where one student builds a figure while it is hidden from a second student. The first student then needs to describe their construction to their partner so that their partner builds what they have built. Once the first student is done describing, they reveal their creations and compare them. This game is one I’ve used with many students over the years and is loved by all!
Which One Doesn’t Belong?: Playing with Shapes by Christopher Danielson
Finally, Which One Doesn’t Belong?: Playing with Shapes is a really fun book to encourage discourse and help students deepen their thinking about shapes. The book presents four images in each set and asks students which one doesn’t belong, with images ranging from visually simple to complex irregular figures.
This book is a great warm-up to a math lesson at any grade level. The images provide an accessible entry point for all students as there are multiple correct answers to the question. Additionally, students need to justify their thinking, which creates the opportunity for some wonderful expressive conversation. I like to record student ideas as they are shared to further validate each student’s thinking.
And there you go! Some of my favorite books to teach geometry. Looking for more read-alouds to work into your math block? You can find a list of my favorite picture books to teach place value too.