Marvelous Math for Middle Grades

The Language of the Universe

The language of the universe is math. Little else in the natural world reflects such a unique combination of truth, order, and beauty–all of which point to God’s handiwork. We can praise God for math!

When kids hit upper elementary, many of them suddenly start complaining about math. Let’s think about it from their perspective: math has been relatively straightforward for several years until Bam! Within a year or so, basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division have become:


Rates, Ratios, Percentages

Decimals and Fractions

Long Division

… and Variables (Letters in Math Class??)

It’s no wonder kids start to balk. After all, don’t we have calculators and computers now?

Sound familiar? Try reading a book!

These books won’t pull the wool over your kid’s eyes. They’re obviously about math. But they are interesting and fun math books. Some of these books provide terrific explanations of particular concepts while others offer a big picture view. All are geared for the middle grades (4th-8th), but some are accessible to younger kids as well.

Try reading a few over the summer instead of doing math worksheets for reinforcement. If you’re a classroom teacher or home educator, try reading a selection each week during the school year or having a “reading festival” on a May day when everyone is ready to be done with school already. And remember: all this marvelous math is just one facet of God’s amazing creation!

Picture Books

  • A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman and illustrated by Isabel Greenberg. Reinforces understanding of huge numbers (in both numerical and expanded form). Multiracial children pictured; don’t miss the back matter. See also How Much is a Million? by David Schwarz.
  • Mystery Math: A First Book of Algebra by David Adler. A first introduction to using variables and balancing equations. See Adler’s others on such topics as estimation, money, place value, perimeter, fractions, and more.
  • Sir Cumference series by Cindy Neuschwander. Knights of the Round Table, the Lady Di of Ameter, and Sir Circumference reinforce geometry Medieval style.
  • The Lion’s Share by Matthew McElligott. Just how many times can you divide something in half?
  • One Grain of Rice by Demi. An Indian folktale helps illustrate the power of exponential growth. See also The King’s Chessboard by David Birch.
  • You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Math! by Ann Rooney. Part of the popular “You’d Wouldn’t Want to…” series; who knew math was so essential?
  • Lines, Bars, and Circles: How William Playfair Invented Graphs by Helaine Becker. It’s true–the modern infographic started only a few centuries ago.
  • For Good Measure: The Ways We Say How Much, How Far, How Heavy, How Big, How Old by Ken Robbins. An interesting photographic look at some of our terms of measurement and how they got that way.
  • Alexander, Who used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst. A look at money through the eyes of Alexander of “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day fame.”
  • Math Curse by Lane Smith and Jon Scieska. Terribly funny. Everything is suddenly a math problem! AAGGHH!
  • Anno’s Math Books: Mysterious Multiplying Jar, Anno’s Counting Book, and more. Simple but clever visual explanations of multiplication and other concepts.

Longer Books

  • Go Figure! Big Questions About Numbers by Johnny Ball. 4 sections include “Where Do Numbers Come From” (Egyptian, Mayan, Indian, and more), “Magic Numbers” (Pi, infinity, prime numbers, and more), “Shaping Up” (shapes, mazes, cones, curves), and “World of Math” (including chance, fractals, logic, and more). 37 2-page spreads could be read in short chunks each week of the school year. Lots of visual and graphics, but information is well organized.
  • Why Pi? Big Questions About Math by Johnny Ball (also published as Mathemagicians). 3 sections include the Ancient World (seasons, Pi, measurements, time, etc.), the Age of Discovery (Gallileo, longitude, gravity, and more), and Modern Measuring (measuring things like speed, temperature, sound waves). 36 short little chapters and lots of famous figures make this a great resource for kids who want to know quirky extra math facts. It also makes a good weekly dose of math interest during the school year.
  • Show Me the Money: Big Questions About Finance by Alvin Hall. Organized similarly to the above two books, the 39 short chapters cover all sorts of topics related to money, finance, and economics. Going beyond how money works, everything from how to save, how to spend, free markets and global markets, and the difference between wants and needs make this an early course in economic theory and wise living even while it teaches math. A good fit for middle school kids!
  • How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit on a Plane? Answers to Your Most Clever Math Questions by Laura Overdeck. From the author of Bedtime Math (also recommended) comes this funny collection of word problems in disguise! Learn a little science along the way as you learn how to figure out how many bees it takes to make a jar of honey or how many birds it would take to carry you away.
  • We’ve Got Your Number by Mukul Patel. 38 short chapters include concepts such as the number line, variables, infinity, population, tessellations, algorithms, and more. There are lots of famous mathematicians sprinkled throughout as well as a lot of history. This has a little more narrative flow than the books above.


What math books have you used with your kids and students? Tell us in the comments. We’d love to add to our list!




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Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Northwest.

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