Poetry + Math = Fun!

“Words and images are the keys to communicating mathematical reasoning and insight. These tools can connect math with a world of things — real and imaginary — that matter to kids and have the power to make math intuitive, clear, and meaningful. It is through these connections that math can become a familiar, friendly, and fun part of life.”
(Greg Tang, Literacy Connections)

“Though poetry and math may seem to be unrelated, there are parallels such as rhythmic language and language skills. Reading and writing poetry about math involves students with listening, speaking, reading, and writing in order to develop and demonstrate an understanding of mathematical concepts and relationships.” (LaBonty & Danielson, 2004)

April has the challenge of playing host to both National Poetry Month and Math Awareness Month. While these two subjects may seem worlds apart, many researchers and educators have advocated for the benefits of using poems in math instruction. The following articles offer further insight into how poetry and math can be combined to help children increase their language skills and understanding of mathematical concepts:

Altieri, J. L. (2005). Creating poetry: Reinforcing mathematical concepts. Teaching Children Mathematics, 12(1), 18-23.

Bay-Williams, J. M. (2005). Poetry in motion: Using Shel Silverstein’s works to engage students in mathematics. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 10(8), 386-393.

Curcio, F. R., Zarnowski, M., & Vigliarolo, S. (1995). Mathematics and poetry: Problem solving in context. Teaching Children Mathematics, 1, 370-374.

Keller, R., & Davidson, D. (2001). The math poem: Incorporating mathematical terms in poetry. Mathematics Teacher, 94(5), 342-347.

LaBonty, J., & Danielson, K. (2004). Reading and writing poetry in math. Reading Horizons, 45(1), 39-54.

Tang, G. (2006). Poems in math class? yeah, write! Retrieved March 31, 2007.
Math Poems in the Library
Aside from the educational benefits, math poems can be lots of fun! The following books of Math poems, riddles, and counting rhymes can be found in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library:

Tang, Greg.
Math Appeal. 2003.
Rhyming anecdotes present opportunities for simple math activities and hints for solving.
[Education S-Collection: S.510 T156ma]

Tang, Greg.
The Grapes of Math: Mind Stretching Math Riddles. 2001.
lllustrated riddles introduce strategies for solving a variety of math problems in using visual clues.
[Education S-Collection: S.793.74 T156g]

Tang, Greg.
Math Fables: Lessons that Count. 2004.
A series of rhymes about animals introduces counting and grouping numbers, as well as examples of such behaviors as cooperation, friendship, and appreciation.
[Education S-Collection: S.513.2 T156m]

Tang, Greg.
Math Potatoes: More Mind Stretching Math Riddles. 2005.
Math combines with pictures, riddles, and poems.
[Education S-Collection: S.793.74 T156m]

Tang, Greg.
Math-terpieces: The Art of Problem-Solving. 2003.
A series of rhymes about artists and their works introduces counting and grouping numbers, as well as such artistic styles as cubism, pointillism, and surrealism.
[Education S-Collection: S.510 T156m]

Tang, Greg.
Math for All Seasons. 2002.
[Center for Children’s Books: S.513 T156m]

Franco, Betsy.
Mathematickles! 2003.
A collection of poems written in the form of mathematical problems and grouped according to seasonal themes.
[Education S-Collection: Q.S.811 F8483m]

Ziefert, Harriet.
Mother Goose Math. 1997.
A collection of nursery rhymes, each with a numerical theme.
[Education Storage: Q.S.398.8 Z62m]

Sandburg, Carl.
Arithmetic. 1993.
A poem about numbers and their characteristics. Features anamorphic, or distorted, drawings which can be restored to normal by viewing from a particular angle or by viewing the image’s reflection in the provided Mylar cone.
[Rare Book & Manuscript Library: SNDBBRG 811 Sa49ar]

McKellar, Shona.
Counting Rhymes. 1993.
A collection of poems, including “One Little Finger,” “I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing By,” and “This Old Man,” each featuring different numbers.
[Education Storage: Q.S. 398.84 C832]

Jacobs, Allan D.
Arithmetic in Verse and Rhyme. 1971.
Rhymes about the concept of numbers, rhymes in which one must subtract and add, and rhymes that pose mathematical riddles and problems.
[Education Storage: S.398.84 J151a]

Atherlay, Sara.
Math in the Bath (And Other Fun Places Too!) 1995.
These poems features math throughout the school day (in music, art, social studies, recess) and math at home as well (dividing a pizza, bubbles in the bath). The book ends with a list of mathematical concepts found each day, a perfect invitation for further reading about math. (LaBonty & Danielson, 2004).
[Education Storage: S.649.68 AT42M]

Lewis, J Patrick.
Arithme-tickle: An Even Number of Odd Riddle-Rhymes. 2002.
Rhyming text and illustrations present a variety of math problems.
[Center for Children’s Books: S.513 L5873a]

Hopkins, Lee Bennett.
Marvelous Math: A Book of Poems. 1997.
Presents such poems as “Math Makes Me Feel Safe,” “Fractions,” “Pythagoras,” and “Time Passes,” by such writers as Janet S. Wong, Lee Bennett Hopkins, and Ilo Orleans.
[Center for Children’s Books: Q.S.811 M368]

Right in Your Own Backyard: Nature Math. 1992.
Stories, poems, activities, and games introduce readers to the rich array of math to be found in our own backyards.
[Education Storage: Q.S. 510 R449]
Math Poems on the Web
Check out these web sites for more fun with math and poetry!

Mr. R’s Math Poems

Poetry Math

Math Songs & Poems

Chocolate Math

Mathematical Poetry