Selecting Quality Picture Books for Mathematics Instruction: What Do Preservice Teachers Look For?

  • Sandi Cooper
  • Rachelle Meyer RogersEmail author
  • Barbara Purdum-Cassidy
  • Suzanne M. Nesmith
Original Paper


A quality picture book can enhance instruction and build positive and meaningful connections that enable students to visualize and engage in mathematics. To learn more about how preservice teachers analyze and select quality picture books in their mathematics lessons, a study was conducted over two semesters during a required field experience component of an undergraduate teacher education program. The preservice teachers were required to use a picture book to explore a mathematical concept in three mathematics-focused lesson plans. Data was collected through preservice teachers’ lesson plan reflections, summative reflections over the experience of integrating picture books and mathematics, and focus group interviews. The qualitative data analysis revealed that in planning mathematics lessons to incorporate quality picture books, preservice teachers most often selected a book based on the topic to be taught or based on previous use by their university instructor. The quality of the selected picture books did not appear to be a critical criterion for selection. As a result, it is important for teacher educators to model ways of assessing and selecting quality picture books and provide opportunities for preservice teachers to incorporate these techniques.


Children’s Literature Mathematics Teacher education Picture books 


  1. Axelrod, Amy, and McGinley-Nally, Sharon. (1997). Pigs in the Pantry. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  2. Birdseye, Tom. (1996). Tarantula Shoes. New York, NY: Penguin Books Ltd.Google Scholar
  3. Burns, Marilyn, and Silveria, Gordon. (1994). The Greedy Triangle. New York, NY: Scholastic Paperbacks.Google Scholar
  4. Demi, (1997). One Grain of Rice. New York, NY: Scholastic Paperbacks.Google Scholar
  5. Hellwig, Stacey, Monroe, Eula, and Jacobs, James. (2000). Making Informed Choices: Selecting Trade Books for Mathematics Instruction. Teaching Children Mathematics, 7(3), 138–143.Google Scholar
  6. Hoewisch, Allison. (2000). Children’s Literature in Teacher-Preparation Programs. Retrieved from
  7. Hunsader, Patricia. (2004). Mathematics Trade Books: Establishing Their Value and Assessing Their Quality. The Reading Teacher, 57(7), 618–629.Google Scholar
  8. Leedy, Loreen. (2005). The Great Graph Contest. New York, NY: Holiday House.Google Scholar
  9. Leonard, Jacqueline, Moore, Cara, and Brooks, Wanda. (2014). Multicultural Children’s Literature as a Context for Teaching Mathematics for Cultural Relevance in Urban Schools. The Urban Review, 46(3), 325–348. Scholar
  10. McDuffie, Amy, and Young, Terrell. (2003). Promoting Mathematical Discourse Through Children’s Literature. Teaching Children Mathematics, 9(7), 385–389.Google Scholar
  11. Moyer, Patricia. (2000). Communicating Mathematically: Children’s Literature as a Natural Connection. The Reading Teacher, 54(3), 246–255.Google Scholar
  12. Murphy, Stuart J., and Cravath, Lynne. (1998). The Penny Pot. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.Google Scholar
  13. Murphy, Stuart J., and Buller, Jon. (1996). Ready, Set, Hop. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.Google Scholar
  14. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2000). Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.Google Scholar
  15. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2014). Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.Google Scholar
  16. Nesmith, Suzanne, and Cooper, Sandi. (2010). Trade Books in the Mathematics Classroom: The Impact of Many, Varied Perspectives on Determinations of Quality. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 24(4), 279–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Patton, Michael. (2002). Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods, 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  18. Schiro, Michael. (1997). Integrating Children’s Literature and Mathematics in the Classroom: Children as Meaning Makers, Problem Solvers, and Literary Critics. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  19. Shatzer, Joyce. (2008). Picture Book Power: Connecting Children’s Literature and Mathematics. The Reading Teacher, 61(8), 649–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Shih, Jeffrey, and Giorgis, Cyndi. (2004). Building the Mathematics and Literature Connection Through Children’s Responses. Teaching Children Mathematics, 10(6), 328–333.Google Scholar
  21. Tate, William. (2008). “Geography of Opportunity”: Poverty, Place, and Educational Outcomes. Educational Researcher, 37(7), 397–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Teitel, Lee. (2003). The Professional Development Schools Handbook: Starting, Sustaining, and Assessing Partnerships that Improve Student Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.Google Scholar
  23. Tompert, Ann, and Parker, Robert Andrew. (1997). Grandfather Tang’s Story. New York, NY: Crown Publishers Inc.Google Scholar
  24. Ward, Robin. (2005). Using Children’s Literature to Inspire K-8 Preservice Teachers’ Future Mathematics Pedagogy. Reading Teacher, 59(2), 132–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Welchman-Tischler, Rosamond. (1992). How to Use Children’s Literature to Teach Mathematics. Reston, VA: The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Inc.Google Scholar
  26. Whitin, David. (2002). The Potentials and Pitfalls of Integrating Literature into the Mathematics Program. Teaching Children Mathematics, 8(7), 503–504.Google Scholar
  27. Whitin, David, and Whitin, Phyllis. (1996). Fostering Metaphorical Thinking Through Children’s Literature. In Portia Elliott and Margaret Kenny (Eds.), Communication in Mathematics K-12 and Beyond (1996 yearbook of the National Council of Teacher of Mathematics (pp. 60–65). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.Google Scholar
  28. Whitin, David, and Whitin, Phyllis. (2004). New Visions for Linking Literature and Mathematics. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.Google Scholar
  29. Wilburne, Jane, and Napoli, Mary. (2008). Connecting Mathematics and Literature: An Analysis of Pre-service Elementary School Teachers’ Changing Beliefs and Knowledge. Issues in the Undergraduate Mathematics Preparation of School Teachers, 2, 9.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandi Cooper
    • 1
  • Rachelle Meyer Rogers
    • 1
    Email author
  • Barbara Purdum-Cassidy
    • 1
  • Suzanne M. Nesmith
    • 1
  1. 1.Baylor UniversityWacoUSA

Personalised recommendations