Historical, Cultural Math and Biographies

Cultural Math, Foreign Language Counting, Math History, Biographies of Mathematicians and Scientists

Print Friendly and PDF

► A family favorite of ours. Y = for the youngest kids

Suggest a reader for this list

Note: These are just some of many readers scheduled in the Living Math History Lesson Plans. Booklists in printable .pdf format, and are graded into three levels. See lesson plan information. See also Mathematician Bios page. 

Pre-K through Elementary

Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares  Murphy, Frank/Walz2001 Number sequences/history 

Can You Count Ten Toes? by Denis Roche, counting in 10 languages

Count Your Way Through Ireland by Jim Haskins/Kathleen Benson, there is a whole series of these books covering many countries

Dear Benjamin Banneker, Brian Pinkney - Another wonderful picture / biography for the younger set

The Five Chinese Brothers by Clair Huchet Bishop

Five Secrets in a Box  (Galileo), Nice story as if told by Galileo's daughter

Fly on the Ceiling  by J. Glass, A story about how the very messy French philosopher, Renâe Descartes, invented an ingenious way to keep track of his possessions.

From Zero to Ten: The Story of Numbers zby Vivian French

GrandFather Tang's Story by Ann Tompert, Tangrams in a story

Hanukkah, A Counting Book in English, Hebrew & Yiddish by Emily Sper

The History of Counting ► by Denise Schmandt-Besserat

How Big is a Foot? zMyller, Rolf   1962   Size, measurement, story based on historical fact

How Did Numbers Begin? Sitomer, Mindel&Harry/Cuffari 1976 History of numbers Young Math book 

Joseph Who Loved the Sabbath z Hirsh, Marilyn1986 Comparable value (in the story, all the greedy man's wealth is converted into one jewel that he then loses). Jewish culture.

The King's Chessboard z Birch, David/Grebu1988Doubling exponentially. Based on historical tale 

Knots on a Counting Rope by John Archambault, Reading Rainbow

Leonardo, Beautiful Dreamer (Da Vinci bio for young)  Robert Byrd 

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth z (story of Erastothenes), Kevin Hawkes, Beautiful book, illustrations, well written, wide age range appeal

Mathematicians Are People, Too V1 and MAPToo V2  Reimer, Luetta/Reimer, Wilbert1990/1997Math History through stories of mathematicians lives, very readable

Mathematics  by Irving Adler, nice tie in to basic programming, clean, uncluttered book

Mathematics (The World of Science) z Irene Fekete 1984 Very readable math history, oversize, great pics

Moja Means One, Swahili Counting Book Muriel Feelings, Caldecott Honor

Mummy Math : An Adventure in Geometry by Cindy Neuschwander, Bryan Langdo J Review

My Own Rhythm; An Approach to Haiku z Atwood, Ann, 1973 Haiku IS mathematical poetry, beautiful pics

The Mystery of the Several Sevens by Bill Brittain

Number Art: Thirteen 123s From Around the World by Leonard Fisher - beautiful book

One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi

One Leaf Rides The Wind: Counting In A Japanese Garden by Celeste Davidson Mannis, counting and haiku

Roman Numerals I to MM by Arthur Geisart

Roman Numerals (Young Math Books) by David Adler

Science of the Past this is a series of books that feature math as well as science history. Titles include: Ancient Rome  Ancient Greece  Ancient China   Egypt   Mesopatamia   Early Islamic Culture  

Secrets in Stone : All About Maya Hieroglyphics z by Laurie Coulter, includes section on the Mayan number system, glyph template in the back, one sensitive reference to human sacrifice in the book you can edit out if reading aloud

Senefer: A Young Genius in Old Egypt z by Beatrice Lumpkin J Review

The Seven Chinese Brothers Y Mahy, Margaret/Tseng, Jean & Mou-sien1990 Cause/ effect/ relationship chains

A Shaker's Dozen by Kathleen Thorne - Thomsen

Something from Nothing ► Gilman, Phoebe    1992Size & perspective, very sweet story of growing up, Jewish culture 

The Spider Weaver: A Legend of Kente Cloth  Margaret Musgrove, geometric patterns in nature and weaving, African folk tale

The Story of Clocks and Calendars : Marking a Millennium z Betsy Maestro, Beautiful illustrations, easy to understand

Ten Little Mummies: An Egyptian Counting Book  

Tikki Tikki Tembo z Mosel, Arlene/Lent, Blair1968 Time, comparison of size, classic tale, Reading Rainbow, yes I consider this math!

Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back by Joseph Bruchac, 13 cycles of the moon represent the changing seasons and the passage of time.

Two of Everything z Ulytoy Hong, Chinese Folktale, very cute, about doubling

The Village of Round and Square Houses Grifalconi, Ann 

What's Your Angle, Pythagoras? A Math Adventure by Julie Ellis J Review

The Wonderful World of Mathematics z Hogben, Larry 1968Math history. Classic, great pics 

Yellow Umbrella ► by Jae Soo Liu Math in music, Japanese language


Upper Elem / Chapter Books

Archimedes and the Door of Science z Bendick, Jeanne/Berquist 1962 Math History. A Classic. 
Isaac Newton and His Apple (Dead Famous Series, a fairly hefty and enjoyable bio)

The Ocean of Truth: The Story of Sir Isaac Newton McPherson, Joyce/Crisp, Tad1997 Biography, Christian perspective. You may get it faster at www.greenleafpress.com

A Piece of the Mountain: The Story of Blaise Pascal  McPherson, Joyce/Robinson, Jennifer 1995History. Story style biography Christian perspective


Middle School on Up

The Joy of Pi ► David Blatner

The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures ► Tahan, Malba, Chapter book, loosely based on the story of Khayyam, some stories are accessible to younger children, but portions are advanced

String, Straightedge and Shadow: The Story of Geometry z Diggins, Julia E./Bell, Corydon 1965 Geometry, math history. Classic back in print 


Wooden Books:  Gorgeous illustrations! 

   Useful Mathematical and Physical Formulae, by Matthew Watkins

   Stonehenge, by Robin Heath