Making Math Fun: Best Math Books and Stories

Yes there really are fun math books!  Math is a lot more engaging when it’s immediately useful and part of a game, activity or scenario. Here are some “best of the best” books – both math readers and engaging story problems – to make your math practice more motivating and fun!

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Making Math Fun list #2: Books!


One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Math

My kids would request these stories at bedtime!  We’d read the mystery, and then each person would guess at the solution, youngest to oldest.  The same people have 2 similar books on Science topics as well.


Math for Martians

 These are really cute stories with colorful artwork throughout – for the younger and less “mathy” crowd.  Example question:  “Martian measles spots cover the body in groups of five.  Every day ten spots disappear.  Count your patient’s spots to figure out how many days the martian measles will last”.


Math Quest Math Books

    These books remind me of the Interactive Story Books, where you make a choice on the plotline and the story splits into multiple endings.  On each page or so, there is a problem to solve, and you move to the next part of the story based on your calculation.  If you calculate incorrectly, it will send you back to work the problem again.  They cover a broad range of topics, and practice is hardly noticed!


Perfectly Perilous Math

 This math book is an eternal favorite of my boys.  This book contains 24 “challenges” that you solve with math problems.  For instance, in one scenario you awaken to find yourself strapped to a table, with a giant saw blade swinging back and forth above you (Poe anyone?).  You learn that each swing takes a second, and that the blade drops an inch each time.  If you can free your hands in 8 minutes – will you live or die???


Time Travel Math

  In this book, we travel back in time with math whizzes Harriet and Thomas, and solve mysteries using geometric concepts such as perimeter, proportions, and angles.  Along the way we also learn about Leonardo da Vinci, Dutch artist M. C. Escher, and ancient Egyptian architect Imhotep.   The story was engaging enough I had to take the book away – to prevent reading ahead of problem solving!


Math Mysteries

 There are two different covers available for this book – both with the same name and author.  They appear to be identical in content fyi, so look for the other edition if this one is hard to find.  In this book, there are 2 – 3 page stories, with a couple of pages of word problems relating to the story to solve at the end.  Skills vary widely, and codes, estimating, elapsed time, problem solving, logic, tables, and diagrams.  They are targeted at grades 2 – 6, though I think you’d need a higher than 2nd grade reading level to understand the problems on your own.  A nice break from calculation worksheets!


Go Figure!

These are short (1 – 2 paragraph) news stories, with some questions following.  As an example, an 85 year old woman in New Zealand discovered a library book checked out in 1945 in her home during a move.  Details of the total fine and fine calculation are included, and you are asked to figure out the library’s daily fine rate.  These take some thinking!


Murderous Maths Math Books

 These math books are by the same folks who wrote “Horrible Science” and “Horrible Histories”.  Math concepts are explained with text, jokes, diagrams and comics.  The books cover upper elementary to middle school topics, and the books are almost 200 pages each – so definitely targeted toward the middle school crowd.  They are definitely more interesting than a textbook for most, and explain concepts well.  They aren’t a curriculum per se, so you would likely want to provide the book that relates to topics you are currently covering in your math program.


Crimes and Mathdemeanors

  These are harder story problems, and definitely targeted toward the middle school or older crowd.  They feature Ravi, a 14 year old math genius who solves crimes using his math skills.  After the story is explained, you are asked to solve the crime on your own.  Then, Ravi’s solution is explained (with diagrams and such as appropriate) so you can check your work.  They definitely inspire critical thinking and problem solving, and make for a nice break from basic calculations work.


MathStart Math Books

  These math books are more of an introduction to math for the younger crowd.  They are divided into 3 levels, corresponding roughly to grade levels PK – 2.  The stories are fun and held the attention of my little ones.  There are quite a few of them – about 20 per level – however on the positive side they are widely available at public libraries if you prefer not to buy the whole sets!  Here’s a link to their web site if you’d like to read more about each book and series:  http://www.mathstart.net/books.html.


Sir Cumference Math Books

    Sir Cumference is a knight whose many adventures tie in with math concepts and vocabulary.  They would be a good introduction to concepts, though I don’t think they give enough information to begin calculations immediately afterwards.  My kids especially enjoyed “Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert”, which was about data tables (and desserts!).


Hello Math Readers

    Hello Math is another large series of early math books.  It’s divided into levels 1 through 4, and cover concepts for grades K – 4.  We found the stories entertaining, and my kids even picked up some concepts along the way.  These are also widely available through libraries.


OK that’s my list of math fun with stories!

Have you read any of these?  Any comments, or any great resources to add?