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STEM Picture Books for the Classroom

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Photo of Alison Smith
Updated | 6 min read

STEM Picture Books for the Classroom

I love books. We all know that reading quality literature is a great place to start when teaching a Literacy or writing lesson. But, have you considered using a children’s picture book to teach maths or STEM activities? Read on to find out more about my top 5 STEM picture books for the classroom.

Math Curse – By Jon Scieszka
Illustrated by Lane Smith

Ages: 7-10
Published in 1995 by Penguin Books Australia 
Paperback available at Booktopia
eBook Edition on iBooks and Google Play

This cleverly crafted and beautifully illustrated book is great for upper years students.

It all begins on Monday when Mrs Fibonacci says…

“You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem.”

The next morning, the girl finds herself thinking of the time she needs to get up, get dressed and have breakfast and asking “Will I make it on time?” , “How many minutes in an hour?”, “How many teeth in one mouth?” This is just the start of the maths problems that unfold.

Each page describes more and more everyday problems involving Number and Algebra, Measurement and Geometry and Statistics and Probability.

As the narrator slowly turns into a ‘math zombie’, everything in her life is transformed into a maths problem. A class treat of cupcakes becomes a study of fractions, while a trip to the store turns into a problem of money. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens at the end.

I love the humour in this book. It is not only a joy to read with your class, but there is also so much opportunity for discussion. This book provides the perfect introduction to writing and solving mathematical problems.

Activity Idea

  1. Download our Dear Diary Template.
  2. Ask your students to record everyday problems that they encounter and to turn them into maths problems.
  3. Encourage your students to illustrate the problems as an art activity.
  4. Create a class Math Curse picture book.

Ada Twist, Scientist – By Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by David Roberts

Ages: 4-7
Published in 2016 by HARRY N ABRAMS INC 
Paperback available at Booktopia
eBook Edition on iBooks and Google Play

This is a magical book about the story of Ada who is a determined girl with boundless curiosity for science and a love of asking why? Ada asks questions about everything and anything from “Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose?” to“Why are there hairs growing inside your nose?” She embarks on fact-finding adventures and conducts scientific experiments, all in the name of discovery.

The rhyme makes it fun and easy to read and the illustrations are sure to get a giggle.

Even Miss Greer found her hands were quite full

when young Ada’s chaos wreaked havoc at school

But this much clear about Miss Ada Twist

She has all the traits of a great scientist.” 

Not only is this a great picture book to encourage your students to ask scientific questions, but it is also a great way to introduce the scientific method for lower years.

Check out our new Scientific Method Poster for Lower Years.

Peg + Cat: The Pizza Problem – By Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

Ages: 3-7
Published in 2017 by Candlewick Press, U.S.
Paperback available at Booktopia
eBook Edition on iBooks and Google Play

Who doesn’t love Peg + Cat? They have got a “…really big problem” and it’s all about fractions.

‘In a storyline both entertaining and educational, Peg and Cat persevere despite setbacks, demonstrating problem-solving skills.’ – Booktopia

It’s lunchtime at Peg’s Pizza Place! Peg and Cat are excited to take their first order.  The only problem is that some of their customers want a whole pizza, while one of them wants half a pizza. How can Peg and Cat make half a pizza when they don’t know what half is?

This book is ideal to read with Year 1 and Year 2 students when you are teaching and learning how to recognise one-half as one of two equal parts of a whole and one-quarter as one of four equal parts of a whole.

Teach a fun STEM challenge by making saucy, cheesy pizzas with a few easy to find craft materials.

See how by watching this YouTube video:

Math-terpieces : The Art of Problem-Solving – By Greg Tang
Illustrated by Greg Paprocki

Ages: 7 – 10
Published in 2003 by Scholastic
Paperback available at Booktopia
eBook Edition on iBooks and Google Play

Math – terpieces is one of many incredible books written by the speaker, educator and online game developer, Greg Tang.

‘My goal is simple. Help kids become smart, well-rounded individuals who love to learn!’ – Greg Tang

I chose this book to share with you because it’s easy to love by both students who are keen mathematicians and students who are less confident in this subject. For those of us who appreciate an answer page, you’ll find the solutions for each puzzle at the back of the book.

Greg Tang believes that all children can be successful in maths, as long as they learn to use the right strategies, such as breaking numbers down into the right-sized chunks. Greg tells us that if a number or maths problem is big, to make it smaller and easier to handle.

Greg Tang uses art history to create math puzzles. He showcases well-known artists from Claude Monet to Andy Warhol, and writes a puzzle about their masterpieces. Each puzzle leads to a maths problem that needs to be solved by the reader.

Upside Down STEM Activity Idea

For a fun extension activity, why not ask your students to choose a piece of art and to write their own puzzle for their peers to solve.

For more information about the inspiring work of Greg Tang visit his website

The Most Magnificent Thing – By Ashley Spires
Illustrated by Ashley Spires

Ages: 4-6
Published in 2014 by Kids Can Press 
Paperback available at Booktopia
eBook Edition on iBooks and Google Play

Do you have students in your class that give up easily or find it hard to deal with feelings of frustration? If you do then this book will be perfect for you to share with your little inventors, before embarking on your next STEM challenge.

This beautifully illustrated book is about a “…regular girl and her best friend in the whole wide world”, who is a dog.  “She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!”

When her ideas don’t go to plan she gets frustrated.  After showing commendable perseverance and it still not working out the way she had hoped, ‘She gets mad‘, really mad.

“I’m no good at this. I QUIT”

She takes a walk and before long she starts to feel different and the “mad gets pushed out of her head”.  She soon notices that not everything is wrong with what she has created so far and that with a little more work and a few more adjustments, she can make it just right.

This magical book is a tale of problem solving, resilience and perseverance. I simply love it. It’s so relevant to the lives of the little geniuses in our classrooms.

Activity Idea

  1. Encourage your students to think of a time when they felt like the girl in the story.
  2. Create a class list of strategies to use when completing a STEM challenge or any difficult task
  3. Create a class poster to share these strategies.

I hope that enjoy these books as much as I do. Why not write a class book review?

Please share your class book review in the comments section of this blog!


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