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Books by Greg Tang

by Stephanie Marshall Ward

Six mathematical picture books are reviewed.

To date, these are the only math lessons that my very math resistant 10-year-old daughter has truly enjoyed. The "riddles" in these books are simple enough to be understood, yet challenging enough to lead children into strengthening their mathematical and problem solving skills.

One aspect of Tang's books which I appreciate is that they do not simply prompt children to use problem-solving skills. If needed (see the answer keys in the backs of the books), each book takes the child by the hand and shows him how to visualize and solve the problem. After studying the answers to several riddles, my daughter got the hang of it and was enjoying tackling the problems on her own. Had she simply been given a problem and left to wrestle with it, her reaction would have been one of frustration rather than enjoyment.

Some of these books also incorporate learning from other subject areas, such as art appreciation or the cycle of the seasons. This not only increases their educational scope, but reminds us of how, in a dynamic learning environment, all subjects seamlessly relate to one another.

For local readers (Augusta County, VA), I have included the locations and call numbers for these books at our county libraries.

  • Tang, Greg (2001) The Grapes of Math: Mind-Stretching Mind Riddles New York: Scholastic Press. (approximately ages 7-10)
    This clever book of rhyming math riddles, beautifully illustrated by Harry Briggs, is designed to help kids look at counting in a different way. Each page includes a picture with something to count. Instead of counting the items the "slow" way (one by one), the reader is prompted to visually group the items into sets, then add or subtract if needed. This is an excellent way to help children develop their skills at "visualizing" math, explore patterns and symmetries, strengthen their number sense, use logic, and practice fundamental computation skills.

  • Tang, Greg (2002) Math for All Seasons New York: Scholastic Press. (approximately ages 5-8)
    This book of rhyming math riddles is similar to The Grapes of Math, but written for a slightly younger audience. Tang expresses his goals of "encouraging kids to think through problems rather than relying on formulas and memorization" and helping them make the transition from counting to arithmetic. Instead of counting a group of things one by one, the reader logically groups them into sets, then adds them together.

    The themes of the riddles take the reader through the four seasons. There are tulips and Easter eggs for spring, ice cream cones and fireworks for summer, acorns and jack-o-lanterns for fall, and icicles for winter. This has natural appeal for kids, and helped me remind my 6-year-old about the cycle of the seasons.(Staunton Public Library - E Tang - picture books)

  • Tang, Greg (2002) The Best Of Times: Math Strategies that Multiply New York: Scholastic Press. approximately ages 8-12)
    This book offers more math riddles. This time they offer logical strategies for learning the multiplication tables. This can help a child enhance his arithmetic and problem solving skills while learning his multiplication facts.

  • Tang, Greg (2003) Math Appeal New York: Scholastic Press.(approximately ages 7-10)
    This book offers more math riddles, illustrated by Harry Briggs, in the style of The Grapes of Math.

  • Tang, Greg (2003) MATH-terpieces: The Art of Problem-Solving New York: Scholastic Press.(approximately ages 7-10)
    This book was quite a hit with my math-phobic ten-year-old. She not only participated eagerly in a math lesson, but discovered an interest in several art forms that are new to her: especially surrealism. This book includes 12 famous works of art, representing a wide range of styles from impressionism to "pop art" (Andy Warhol). Each painting is accompanied by a math riddle which gently teaches a bit about that artist or artistic movement while giving instructions for the math problem. The child is presented with a number of sets of things (such as ballet shoes with Degas' work), and groups the sets in as many ways as possible to arrive at a given sum. The book also coaches the child on a systematic way to do this (see the answer key in the back). This helps develop arithmetic, visual learning, logic and problem solving skills. The book can also be used with younger kids who can count the objects and enjoy the beautiful illustrations.(Augusta County Public Library J510 Tan)

  • Tang, Greg (2004) Math Fables: Lessons That Count New York: Scholastic Press. (approximately ages 3-6)
    This beautiful picture book is similar in concept to MATH-terpieces: The Art of Problem-Solving, but was created for younger children. Through lively animal rhyming stories and illustrations, it demonstrates all the possible ways of combining sets to reach a given sum. It helps a young child truly understand arithmetic concepts, and can gently help him make the transition from counting to addition and subtraction. (Augusta County Public Library J513.2 Tan)

Growing Together Family Learning Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 1, page 11

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