Math and Nonfiction, Grades 3–5


Math and Nonfiction, Grades 3–5 offers 20 lessons that address major mathematical topics, including whole-number computation, fractions, percents, sorting, graphing, measurement, data analysis, estimation, averages, and more.

Download an at-a-glance chart of children’s literature featured in the Math, Literature, and Nonfiction series, listed with grade levels and topics.

Stephanie Sheffield and Kathleen Gallagher
232 Pages

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Review by Connect staff. Reproduced with permission from Connect, September–October 2005.

Math and Nonfiction: Grades K–2, by Jamee Peterson and Math and Nonfiction: Grades 3–5 , by Stephanie Sheffield and Kathleen Gallagher, are two of a series of books from Marilyn Burns’ Math Solutions group. They promote the idea that, “children’s books can be effective vehicles for motivating children to think and reason mathematically.” (p. xi). Nonfiction books offer children a different way of listening when the stories are read aloud, and a different way of interacting with a book. Instead of reading from cover to cover, one might only read a portion of the nonfiction book. Each lesson is conveyed in a conversational tone, with plenty of reflective narration from the author. As well, children’s drawings and quotes from journal entries and discussions are prominent. Each lesson describes detailed steps and suggestions. In short, these are of the same fine caliber we have grown to expect from Math Solutions.

Review by Linda Hunt Jury, a third grade teacher at Rio Vista Elementary in Bay Point, California. Reproduced with permission from Intersection, © Summer 2005, by ExxonMobil Corporation.

“There just isn’t enough time!” is a common complaint among elementary teachers. Teachers struggle daily to meet the standards and subject areas assigned to their grade level. In addition, teachers try to make the lessons challenging, engaging, and meaningful for all students.

It is with this challenge in mind that I decided to do lessons that incorportated nonfiction and mathematics. Math and Nonfiction Grades 3–5 by Stephanie Sheffield and Kathleen Gallagher provides mathematics lessons that begin with a nonfiction reading.

The book includes an introduction by Marilyn Burns and is published by a division of Marilyn Burns Education Associates. Those familiar with Marilyn Burns will recognize a format that emphasizes student dialogue about mathematical reasoning. The lessons encourage student engagement and student dialogue about mathematical concepts. Lessons also include sample student work.

Included in the lessons are student discussions of the math content. The lessons are fun and engaging. However, I found it difficult in some lessons to find the procedures. They were buried in student discussions and detailed narrative descriptions of the lesson. To duplicate a lesson, you have to read the section entirely to find the steps. Some of the book titles used in lessons I found at our school library. Other titles were more difficult to obtain. The titles I used were fun for students and were excellent nonfiction titles.

Students in my class enjoyed the relevancy of the mathematical content. Placing the math into a context made it exciting for them. The first lesson I taught used the book Icebergs and Glaciers by Seymour Simon. Students had just read about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s exploration of Antarctica in reading class. The frigid South Pole captured their imaginations and encouraged their scientific curiosity. Icebergs and Glaciers proved to be both a good science lesson and a springboard for discussing fractions.

Similarly, there is a lesson in the book that ties in with our biography unit. We read Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull and followed with a graphing activity that used the class’s birth weights in comparison to Wilma Rudolph’s birth weight of 4 pounds. Students were very creative in the types of graphs they used to chart the information. The lesson was a good follow-up to a chapter we had just finished on graphing in our math program.

This book is inspiring for teachers to look outside their textbook for math lessons. Seeing my students’ enthusiasm for these math lessons has encouraged me to look at nonfiction in a new way. I know that I will repeat many of the lessons I tried in this book. In addition, I plan to create my own lessons using nonfiction books.

Review by Colleen Thrailkill, resource teacher for gifted and talented, Davidson Elementary School, Davidson, North Carolina. Reprinted with permission from Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, copyright 2005 by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. All rights reserved.

As soon as I saw that these books came from Marilyn Burns’s Math Solutions Publications, I was eager to use them and to share them with the teachers at my school. The K–2 book presents lessons built around the mathematics in eighteen children’s books of nonfiction. The 3–5 book does the same for twenty works of nonfiction appropriate for the upper elementary grades. As is typical of most of the material from Marilyn Burns and her associates, these books provide detailed descriptions of the lessons as they were presented to actual classes, children’s comments and responses during the lessons, and photographs of student work samples. Lists of materials also accompany each lesson, and blackline masters are included as needed.
I asked a teacher friend to field-test the 3–5 book. She used the lesson for If You Hopped Like a Frog, giving her multiage class of third and fourth graders a chance to work on their multiplication and measurement-conversion skills. She reported that her students enjoyed predicting before hearing the text that came on the next page. Differentiating the lesson for her students of varying abilities was easy, and in her class discussion after the lesson students reported that the activities they did were challenging and fun.
These books will be a welcome addition to the collections of mathematics lessons using fiction books that have come into increasing use as teachers have integrated their curriculum more over the past ten years. Teaching students how to read nonfiction is an important skill, and linking it to mathematics is very relevant. In addition, most publications linking mathematics and literature have been written for the lower elementary grades. The 3–5 book in this series is an excellent opportunity for us to reach our older students and make an engaging link between good mathematics and good literature.

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