Math and Music

Infant girl on her tummy playing with a xylophone

Learning about numbers and quantity and learning to appreciate and understand musical concepts are integrally connected for children. We know that learning one improves an understanding of the other and vice versa. There are many overlapping concepts between math and music, including rhythm, counting, understanding patterns, high and low, and up and down. Understanding both math and music leads to a deeper grasp of numerical concepts and perhaps even a deeper understanding of the world.

This quarter’s Books of Excellence highlight math and/or music in some way. Wild! Numbers, the infant-toddler selection takes counting, a frequent subject of children’s books, and gives it new life with playful illustrations and a surprise ending. Say Zoop!, the preschool selection, is an interactive book which introduces young listeners to concepts like big, bigger, small, smaller, fast, slow, patterns, and more. The school-age selection, Muddy, approaches math and music in a different way. With almost musical language, this book tells the life story of Muddy Waters, blues legend, who taught himself to play the guitar, and succeeded against overwhelming odds. All three Books of Excellence remind us that children’s literature is a perfect vehicle for math and musical learning.

By Linda C. Whitehead, Ph.D., Senior Advisor, Education and Development 


Wild! NumbersWild! Numbers, written & illustrated by Courtney Dicmas, Infant/Toddler: This funny and colorfully engaging picture book is the perfect introduction for the youngest listeners to learn basic number concepts. The wild bird antics will draw children back to this book over and over again inspiring them to learn numbers and counting. The hand drawn birds are recognizable backyard favorites that will capture a child’s interest throughout the pages.


Say Zoop book coverSay Zoop!, written and illustrated by Hervé Tullet, Preschool: This interactive book encourages readers to create sounds and try new words in different voice levels. “Say a little OH! Say a HUGE OH!” Readers will experiment with emotions, sound, color, math skills and rhythm as they follow the dots from page to page.


Muddy book coverMuddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters, written by Michael Mahin, illustrated by Evan Turk, School-Age: Muddy is the story of guitarist Muddy Waters, who embraced the blues from an early age, despite his grandmother’s disapproval. According to her, “Muddy was never good at doing what he was told” and his determination and love for music led to him establishing the musical genre known as the “Chicago Blues”. Through the use of rhythmic language, the author tells Muddy’s story pulling the reader in on each page. The illustrations throughout the book complement the soulful text through the use of mixed-media, causing the energy of the music to come to life. The story is a fun biography for school-age children depicting the history of a musical genre, while teaching the important lessons of determination and living your dreams.



Fish Eyes book coverFish Eyes, written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert, Infant & Toddler: This book combines the best of vibrant illustrations and musical rhymes with the fun of a counting book! It’s as much a joy to read as it is to hear.

Moomin's Little Book of Numbers

Moomin’s Little Book of Numbers, written and illustrated by Tove Jansson, Infant & ToddlerMoomins are adorable, imaginary creatures, which are beloved in many parts of the world. In this delightful board book, they help count everything from umbrellas to butterflies to stars.


Round is a Tortilla book cover

Round Is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes, written by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by John Parra, Preschool: Two Latino children engage in an adventure of exploring and identifying shapes in everyday places and things. Common objects become recognizable shapes such as huevos or eggs for ovals and quesadilllas or crunchy chips for triangles. This book is a good read with its rhyming text, bilingual vocabulary and rich illustrations.


I Know Numbers! book coverI Know Numbers!, written and illustrated by Taro Gomi, Preschool: Readers learn all the different ways that numbers help us each and every day. From sizes of clothing and shoes, to playing games, to knowing the temperature, numbers are helpful!


Marta! Big & Small book coverMarta! Big & Small, written by Jen Arena, illustrated by Angela Dominguez, Preschool - Kindergarten PrepWhile enjoying a boldly illustrated book about Marta, a very clever little girl, children can explore some basic words in Spanish and English while having fun with the concept of opposites.


Mysterious Patterns book coverMysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature, written by Sarah C. Campbell, photos by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell, School-Age: Children (and adults!) will learn about the mathematical concept of fractals, nature’s repeating patterns which are universal and teach us about how things grow. The colorful photographs will encourage children to identify fractals in the world around them.


The Alphabet Thief book coverThe Alphabet Thief, written by Bill Richardson, illustrated by Roxanna Bikadoroff, School-Age: Similar to counting books, alphabet books often follow a standard format. The Alphabet Thief is the exception. In this story, the Alphabet Thief steals letters out of words. For example, “The Alphabet Thief stole all of the C’s, and a cloud became loud in the sky. My chair wasn’t there – it had turned into hair – and all of the spices were spies.” School-agers may enjoy coming up with their own words that the Alphabet Thief has stolen from.

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Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
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Infant girl on her tummy playing with a xylophone