Get UNLIMITED PRINTABLES with our Premium Membership    

23 Math Read-Alouds for Primary Students

November 2, 2021 by Janessa Fletcher

Read-aloud time is one of my favorite parts of the school day! Your students are engaged, they get to listen to fluent reading, and everyone gets to rest and reset. There are so many great skills that your students can learn from books. Read-alouds can be an introduction to any topic. So… what about using read-alouds to learn about math skills?!!!

We’ve broken down these 23 books into skill areas. As an added bonus, we have included some activity ideas you can use as follow-ups to these math read-alouds for your primary students.  I just went to the library and checked out #7 for this next week when I teach subtraction.

Math Read-Alouds for Counting

1 – Anno’s Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno

Gentle watercolor pictures show a landscape changing through the various times of day and the turning seasons, months and years, and the activities of the people and animals who come to live there. But the seemingly simple plan of the book is deceptive: look more carefully and you will see one-to-one correspondences; groups and sets; scales and tabulations; changes over time periods; and many other mathematical relationships as they occur in natural, everyday living. The reader is subtly led to see and understand the real meaning of numbers.

Pair this book with a set of counting cubes and your students can model the numbers throughout the book. Or have them fill in ten frames with double-sided counters or color them in with dry-erase markers.

2 – Zero is the Leaves on the Trees

It’s easy to count three of something– just add them up. But how do you count zero, a number that is best defined by what it’s not? Can you see it? Hear it? Feel it? This important math concept is beautifully explored in a way that will inspire children to find zero everywhere–from the branches of a tree by day to the vast, starry sky by night.

3 – Billions of Bricks by Kurt Cyrus

Grab a hard hat and all your tools, and get ready for a construction adventure in counting! This clever, rhyming picture book leads readers through a day in the life of a construction crew building with bricks. A brick may seem like just a simple block, but in groupings of ten, twenty, and more, it can create many impressive structures, from hotels to schools to skyscrapers. This book is a great introduction to skip counting using different sets of quantities.

4 – Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong

When old Mr. Haktak digs up a curious brass pot in his garden, he has no idea what use it can be. On his way home, Mr. Haktak decides to carry his coin purse in the mysterious pot. But when Mrs. Haktak’s hairpin accidentally slips into the pot and she reaches in to retrieve it, the magic of the pot is revealed. Not only are there two hairpins inside, but there are also two purses! Help your students practice skip counting by the different groups of numbers with this cute story.

After reading any of these math read-alouds to your students, you can work on counting strategies. Use these no prep printables in your centers, small groups, as extra practice, or for homework. Your students can practice counting using different math tools as well as recognizing sets of numbers.

5 – How Many? (Talking Math) by Christopher Danielson

Use this math read-aloud as a way to get your students talking about numbers and sets of objects. It is a great introduction to number talks. An innovative book that encourages critical thinking and sparks mathematical conversations. You and your students decide what to count on each page. They have many choices, and the longer they look, the more possibilities they’ll notice. There are no wrong answers in this book. As long as they’re talking about what they see, think, and wonder, they’re talking math!

Math Read-Alouds for Addition and Subtraction

6 – One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab by April Pulley Sayre

If one is a snail and two is a person, we must be counting by feet! Just follow the sign to the beach, where a bunch of fun-loving crabs, lounging dogs, gleeful insects, and bewildered-looking snails obligingly offer their feet for counting in a number of silly, surprising combinations — from one to one hundred!

7 – Elevator Magic by Stuart Murphy

Elevator Magic is perfect for teaching subtraction to first through third graders! When the elevator goes down, the subtraction starts, and so does the magic. Ben sees crazy things every time the door opens. Ride along as he subtracts his way down to the lobby, and decide for yourself if it’s elevator magic.

8 – Math Fables: Lessons That Count by Greg Tang

This book encourages kids to see the basics of addition and subtraction in entirely new ways. Fresh, fun, and most of all, inspiring, MATH FABLES is perfect for launching young readers on the road to math success!

9 – Ten on a Twig by Lo Cole

Watch the birds fall as the pages turn in this interactive picture book from the publisher of the Don’t Push the Button series! In this charming, deceptively simple counting book, ten birds sit on a twig. As each falls off, they take a piece of the twig with them, and in the end, they have a new home―just in time to say goodnight.

10 – 10 Gulab Jamuns by Sandhya Acharya

Idu (Ee-doo) and Adu (Aa-doo) are very excited. Guests are coming over for dinner and their Mamma has already cooked a lot. Next, she is cooking Gulab Jamuns, but Idu and Adu don t know what Gulab Jamuns are. Before long, they discover just how good these wonderful golden, sugary syrup-soaked balls are and how quickly they melt in their mouths. But Mamma has only made 10 Gulab Jamuns. Will they last until their guests come?

Your students can put these addition and subtraction skills to good use while you read aloud. We have over one hundred no prep printables for addition and subtraction, so your students get that extra practice they need to build fact fluency.


Part-Part-Whole and Balancing Equations Read-Alouds

11 – Seven Golden Rings by Rajani LaRocca

In ancient India, a boy named Bhagat travels to the Rajah’s city, hoping to ensure his family’s prosperity by winning a place at court as a singer. Bhagat carries his family’s entire fortune–a single coin and a chain of seven golden rings–to pay for his lodging. But when the innkeeper demands one ring per night, and every link snipped costs one coin, how can Bhagat both break the chain and avoid overpaying? His inventive solution points the way to an unexpected triumph and offers readers a friendly lesson in binary numbers–the root of all computing.

12 – 12 Ways to Get to 11 by Eve Merriam

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 __ 12 What happened to 11?

Is it in the magician’s hat? Maybe it’s in the mailbox or hiding in the jack-o’-lantern? Don’t forget to look in the barnyard where the hen awaits the arrival of her new little chicks. Could that be where eleven went?

Help your students understand the relationship between addition and subtraction while they balance equations. Start your lesson with one of these read-alouds and then assign one of the dozens of printables from our Balancing Equations math packet.

13 – Equal Shmequal by Virginia Kroll

Mouse and her friends want to play tug-of-war, but they’ll need to use some everyday math to figure out how to make teams that are equal. As Mouse looks at various solutions she is not sure what it means to be equal. Nothing works until Mouse starts to think about it mathematically and divides the teams based on weight. Wonderful illustrations capture Mouse and her animal friends from whiskers to tails as they work to measure and equalize their teams based on size, weight, and effort. A perfect addition to any STEM/STEAM collection that shows readers how math can be used in everyday problem-solving.

Math Read-Alouds for Measurement

14 – Who Eats First? by Ae-hae-Yoon

Six animal friends find a delicious-looking peach. All of them are hungry and want to gobble it up. Will Giraffe get the first bite because he’s the tallest? Maybe Gator will be first because his mouth is so big. Each animal wants to eat first, but there’s a hilarious surprise in store! Hands-on activities and elementary math concepts that relate to classifying and placing in order as well as organizing data and measuring expand this lighthearted story about friendship—and competition.

15 – Inch by Inch by Leo Leonni

A small green inchworm is proud of his skill at measuring anything—a robin’s tail, a flamingo’s neck, a toucan’s beak. Then one day a nightingale threatens to eat him if he cannot measure his song. Children will enjoy the clever inchworm’s solution and delight in finding the tiny hero on every page.

Practice measuring objects in the classroom with a variety of materials. Your students can record their answers on these accountability sheets.

16 – Growing Story by Ruth Krauss

A little boy, some chicks, and a puppy live on a farm. They see the first signs of spring growing in the fields and the little boy asks his mother if he and the puppy will grow too. Of course, you will, she assures him, and as spring turns to summer he sees his dog growing taller and the chicks become chickens. But as the seasons change and everything grows around him, the little boy feels like he has stayed the same. Can he really be growing too?

Data Analysis, Time, and Money Read-Alouds

17 – Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst

Last Sunday, Alexander’s grandparents gave him a dollar—and he was rich. There were so many things that he could do with all of that money!

He could buy as much gum as he wanted, or even a walkie-talkie, if he saved enough. But somehow the money began to disappear…

18 – Tally O’Malley by Stuart Murphy

The O’Malleys are off to the beach! But it’s a long, hot, boring drive. What can Eric, Bridget, and Nell do to keep busy? Play tally games, of course—counting up all the gray cars or green T-shirts they see. Whoever has the most marks at the end wins the game.

19 – Second, Minute, Week with Days in It by Brian Cleary

The zany cats introduce the measurement of time, from seconds, minutes, and hours up to decades. Your students will love this playful, fun look at learning about time.

Math Read-Alouds for Place Value

20 – Place Value by David Adler

You had better not monkey around when it comes to place value. The monkeys in this book can tell you why! As they bake the biggest banana cupcake ever, they need to get the amounts in the recipe correct. There’s a big difference between 216 eggs and 621 eggs. Place value is the key to keeping the numbers straight. Using humorous art, easy-to-follow charts, and clear explanations, this book presents the basic facts about place value while inserting some amusing monkey business.

21 – The Power of 10 by Judy Newhoff

Shooting hoops or mastering base 10 numerations? Hmm, for 10-year-old Doogie, his heart is firmly planted on the basketball court. Even in class, he is daydreaming about his career in the NBA. Unfortunately, he has a rude awakening when he attempts to purchase a leather basketball and finds his understanding of place value is woefully lacking. Fortunately for Doogie, he is in for a mind-bending intervention from an intergalactic superhero, Tenacious Ten, who quickly illustrates the wonders of the base 10 system and the miracle power of zeroes and the decimal point.

Geometry Read-Alouds

22 – Triangle, Square, Circle by Mac Barnett

Meet Triangle. He is going to play a sneaky trick on his friend, Square. Or so Triangle thinks. . . . This first tale in the trilogy, will have readers wondering just who they can trust in a richly imagined world of shapes. Visually stunning and full of wry humor, here is a perfectly paced treat that could come only from the minds of two of today’s most irreverent — and talented — picture book creators.

23 – Tangled: A Story About Shapes by Anne Miranda

When the neighborhood shapes go climbing on the park jungle gym the last thing they expect is a tangle. First the circle, next the triangle, and then the square. One by one soon all sixteen shapes are trapped. They push and pull and tumble and cry for help. Who will save them? One special shape can set the others free. Can you guess which one it is? This charming story makes learning the names of sixteen shapes as easy as a day in the park.

Adding literature to your math block is a great way to open your lessons and give your students fun ways to “play” with math concepts and learn valuable vocabulary. You can add discussion questions and math talks by using the topics in these read-alouds. Reading books aloud brings a high level of students engagement during your math time while putting the math skills in context for your students. Not to mention, they help to get your students excited about math!

If you are looking for ways to help your students put these math concepts into practice, we have tons of no prep math printables on all of these topics. Grab the packet that matches your math instruction today!


Written by – Janessa Fletcher

At Education to the Core, we exist to help our teachers build a stronger classroom as they connect with our community to find trusted, state-of-the-art resources designed by teachers for teachers. We aspire to be the world’s leading & most trusted community for educational resources for teachers. We improve the lives of every teacher and learner with the most comprehensive, reliable, and inclusive educational resources.

If you enjoyed what we have to offer at ETTC, be sure to join our email list so that you won’t miss a beat.