Mainstay Math – 21 Books That Lead to “I Love Math”!

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By Valerie Schuetta, M.Ed.

My name is Valerie Schuetta and I am a first grade teacher, as well as a Reading Specialist. I am passionate about my students learning, especially in the area of reading. I hold true to the belief that if you cannot read, it would be hard to learn much of anything else. I care for my students as if they were my own children; therefore, I am constantly striving to create a home environment within the walls of my classroom.

I love finding ways to integrate literacy in the different content areas and have always realized its importance. I have been doing this since my preschool teaching days, which was long before I became a Reading Specialist. This is why I was so excited to have the opportunity to review Mainstay Math’s Linking the Literature and the accompanying Math Literacy Library, which consists of 21 trade books. I can tell you when I first opened the box that contained the trade books and materials, I felt just like a child in a candy store! I could not wait to read each book.

I can give many more reasons why I believe it is important to integrate literature in all the content areas, but with math, I think it is especially important in the early years. Many children go through their education believing that math is too hard or boring. You will undoubtedly hear many of them say things like “I hate math.” Or “I can’t do this!” Many will cry in frustration. My goal is to never hear these expressions even once from my students. I want to hear expressions like “I love math!” It makes my heart sing.

As a first-grade teacher and former kindergarten teacher, I have always kept my eye out for trade books that would engage my students in whatever math concept we were going to be working on. I have used the books as an “introduction” or “anticipatory set” which leads the students into the lesson, “grabs” their attention, and gets them excited about learning. I have spent many hours searching for picture books at my local library. Mainstay Math takes out all the guesswork and does this for you.

I was able to review the first-grade set, and actually try it out in my classroom. I can tell you that my students already love books and were very excited to hear some of the stories.

Since it is the beginning of the year, we are working on adding and subtracting strategies. I chose the books “Elevator Magic” by Stuart J. Murphy to introduce subtraction, and “Domino Addition” by Lynette Long, Ph.D. for addition concepts.

• I love the fact that each book has a lesson that connects to that book, which includes hands-on activities and pictorial representations.

• Included with each lesson is a summary of each book. As a teacher, not only did I read the summary, I also read the book before I actually read it to my students.

• Below the summary, there is a list of discourse questions to ask after reading the story. This really helps with the child’s comprehension, as well as activating their critical thinking and depth of knowledge skills.

• There is also a list of academic vocabulary.

• As an extension, I recommend adding these words to a math vocabulary journal for your child to look back on over the course of the lessons. They can write the definitions and draw a picture if they like. My students love their math journals.

• Reviewing the math vocabulary provided with these lessons will also help your young learner take more ownership with math and it will become more conceptual to them.

My students really enjoyed listening to the story Domino Addition, by Lynette Long. The book itself is very colorful and engaging and the children actively participated in the reading and doing the addition on each page. They loved counting the dots on the dominos and it was not difficult for them to make the connection between the number of dots how they corresponded to the actual number in each equation. They also enjoyed using real dominos to complete the Domino Triplet activity that is included in the book. As an added bonus, a set of dominos is included that can be copied onto cardstock, if dominos are not readily available. I found this ideal because I work with 26 students and I can give a set to each child, if needed.

The next book I read was Elevator Magic, by Stuart J. Murphy. This book teaches the concept of subtraction, which many children struggle with. This story is delightful and engaging. It tells the story of a little boy named Ben who, with his mother, rides the elevator to different floors in a high rise building. His mother is a great example of a mom who has the foresight to use this experience as a “teachable moment” to show Ben the concepts of subtraction. I am sure my little ones cannot wait for their next elevator ride!

Also included are wonderful discourse questions such as “Who would have thought you would need to know how to subtract to ride an elevator! When else have you needed to know how to subtract?” These questions alone will have your young learners thinking about math and real-life experiences. My students also enjoyed playing “Break the Code” game. There are a series of subtraction problems. After they are solved, the students matched the numbers to a letter and a message is revealed. I like this game because it is self-checking. If the message does not make sense, then chances are, the answer is incorrect. They also enjoyed the Tic Tac Toe game that is also included. Using two dice, the children create subtraction problems to solve. It is very hands-on and also gives them the experience of using a number line.

I will eventually use all of these amazing books to teach the different math concepts to my students and I can hardly wait. There are 21 books in all with many captivating titles such as Fraction Fun, by David A. Adler, The Sundae Scoop, by Stuart J. Murphy, as well as the familiar classic Caps For Sale, told by Esphyr Slobodkina.

This program is a fantastic way to not only teach math, but to integrate the main components of reading, such as Fluency, Vocabulary, Comprehension, and Phonics in rich and meaningful ways. I plan on using my Math Literacy Library each year. After I have finished a math concept, I will display each book in a basket for my students to read over and over by themselves or with a friend. I know this will help them become more successful with the math concept and reading fluency, but this will be my little secret. I will relax and let them enjoy these marvelous books on their own! V.S.

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