Literature Connections to
Math Around the World

Teacher's Guides > Math Around the World

The books annotated below delve into a wide spectrum of mathematical, problem-solving, and other game-related strategies, concepts, and skills. Given the range and cultural breadth of this GEMS guide, we have also sought to represent multicultural problem-solving, as for example in Stories to Solve and More Stories to Solve, which contain challenging folktales from around the world. Other books focus on specific mathematical concepts raised by the games in this guide, such as networks and topology, probability and statistics, logical thinking, strategy development, and real-life applications of mathematics. An "electronic book" available on the Internet and a magazine on games are also included.

You and your students may have other favorite books that connect to mathematical games and problem-solving challenges of diverse cultures—send us your suggestions and we’ll consider them when this guide is revised. If you are focusing on a specific mathematics strand or concept, you may also want to consult the GEMS literature handbook Once Upon A GEMS Guide: Connecting Young People’s Literature to Great Explorations in Math and Science.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Anno’s Math Games III
Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar
Do You Wanna Bet?
The Eight
The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery
A Grain of Rice
The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Jumanji
The King’s Chessboard
Maps, Tracks, and the Bridges of Königsberg
Melisande
More Stories to Solve
The Phantom Tollbooth
Rubber Bands, Baseballs and Doughnuts
Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School
Socrates and the Three Little Pigs
Stories to Solve: Folktales from Around the World
Through the Looking Glass
The Toothpaste Millionaire
Maze

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
Viking Penguin, New York. 1984
Grades: 4–Adult
Logic is turned on its head during Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. Nearly every page contains some twist on what we usually perceive and expect to happen. Logical thinking in all its paradoxes abounds in this classic as the mathematician-author has a field day caricaturing the processes of human thought. Especially hilarious, and a test of logical thinking, is Alice’s meeting with the caterpillar in Chapter 3. Gives students a look at the lighter side of logic. Ties in "logically" with NIM (Game 1), Kalah (Game 2), and Hex (Game 8).

Anno’s Math Games III
by Mitsumasa Anno
Philomel Books/Putnam & Grosset, New York. 1991
Grades: 4–10
Picture puzzles, games, and simple activities introduce the mathematical concepts of abstract thinking, circuitry, geometry, and topology. The book invites active participation. Chapter 1, Changing Shapes with Magic Liquid, is a good introduction to topology, which is then explored further in Chapter 3, Mazes. It is this chapter which connects best to Game 4, Shongo Networks, in Math Around the World. There is even an illustration of the Königsberg Bridge Problem in Chapter 3 and a discussion of it in the Afterword.

Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar
by Masaichiro and Mitsumasa Anno
Philomel/Putnam & Grosset, New York. 1983
Grades: 3–8
Through an understanding of multiplication, the reader can learn about factorials and the way that numbers can expand. On a second reading of the book, students can follow along using calculators to verify the large number of jars at the end of the story. Though this book concentrates on factorials, it can lead students to an understanding of exponential growth, as explored in Game 3, Tower of Hanoi.

Do You Wanna Bet?
Your Chance to Find Out About Probability
by Jean Cushman; illustrated by Martha Weston
Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin, New York. 1991
Grades: 4–6
Two boys find that the most ordinary everyday events and activities such as card games, coin flips, sports scores, and statistics—even weather prediction—are dependent on the subtle interplay of many factors of chance and probability. Includes bibliographical references and index. Ties in very well with Game 6, Game Sticks.

The Eight
by Katherine Neville
Ballantine Books, New York. 1988
Grades: Adult
This is an adult-level novel and is therefore recommended for older, advanced students. Much of the book involves games (lots on Magic Squares and chess), logic, and strategy in an intricately woven plot. It has references to the Knight’s Tour and Benjamin Franklin as well as math and music. It also refers to Bach, Boswell, Wordsworth, Blake, Newton, Voltaire, Euler, and Fibonacci numbers.

The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery
by Graeme Base
Harry N. Abrams, New York. 1989
Grades: 3–8

An elephant’s eleventh birthday party is marked by eleven games preceding the banquet to be eaten at the eleventh hour, but when the time to eat arrives the birthday feast has disappeared. Rhyming text and gloriously detailed illustrations contain cryptic clues and hidden messages to keep sleuths searching for the thief. A great book for developing visual-discrimination and logical-thinking skills, thus relates well to all games in Math Around the World.

A Grain of Rice
by Helena C. Pittman
Hastings House, Mamaroneck, New York. 1986
Bantam Books, New York. 1992
Grades: 2–5
A clever, cheerful, hard-working farmer’s son wins the hand of the Emperor’s daughter by outwitting the father who treasures her more than all the rice in China. Pong Lo’s winning strategy is to use a mathematical ruse, asking simply for a grain of rice that is to be doubled every day for one hundred days. The book clearly illustrates exponential growth as in Game 3, Tower of Hanoi.

The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Viking Penguin, New York. 1990
Grades: 6–Adult
The search for, and discovery of, the unknown by putting together a number of clues to find the answer is Sherlock Holmes and deductive reasoning at their best. These, and nearly the entire canon of Holmes adventures, are classic studies in problem-solving as the great detective unravels each case logically, clearly, and cleverly. Ties in with all games in Math Around the World.

Jumanji
by Chris Van Allsburg
Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1981
Grades: K–6
A bored brother and sister left on their own find a discarded board game (called Jumanji) which turns their home into an exotic jungle. A final roll of the dice for two sixes helps them escape from an erupting volcano. As students play Game Sticks in Game 6 they learn about probability and can then discuss the likelihood of rolling two sixes.

The King’s Chessboard
by David Birch; illustrated by Devis Grebu
Dial Books, New York. 1988
Grades: K–6
A too proud king learns a valuable lesson when he readily grants his wise man a special request: one grain of rice on the first square of a chessboard on the first day, two grains on the second square on the second day, four grains on the third square on the third day and so on. After several days the counting of rice grains gives way to weighing, then the weighing gives way to counting sackfuls, then to wagonfuls. The king soon realizes that there is not enough rice in the entire world to fulfill the wise man’s request. This tale involves exponential growth as in Game 3, Tower of Hanoi. Students can use manipulatives in the classroom to see how quickly the rice amasses.

Maps, Tracks, and the Bridges of Königsberg: A Book About Networks
by Michael Holt; illustrated by Wendy Watson
Thomas Y. Crowell, New York. 1975
Grades: 4–8
The subtitle says it all—this is a book about networks. Through a series of inviting interactive pictures, the reader is led in a discussion of networks until finally arriving at the Königsberg bridge problem. By the time the reader arrives there, they probably understand networks well enough that the bridge problem seems a snap. An excellent connection to Game 4, Shongo Networks.

Melisande
by Edith Nesbit; illustrated by P.J. Lynch
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego. 1989
Grades: 1–8
Princess Melisande will grow up to be bald because of a curse by an evil fairy. Upon being granted one wish, she asks for golden hair a yard long that will grow an inch every day and twice as fast when cut. Soon the princess realizes the implications of her wish. With the help of a determined godmother and a prince, order is restored. Though traditional fairy tale roles prevail, this story lends itself to an exploration of exponential growth and thus connects well to Game 3, Tower of Hanoi. Students can use yarn as a hands-on tool to understand how Melisande’s hair grows and to visualize exponential growth.

More Stories to Solve: Fifteen Folktales from Around the World
by George Shannon; illustrated by Peter Sis
Greenwillow Books/William Morrow, New York. 1990
Grades: 3–8
This further collection of brief folktales from a variety of cultures invites you to solve a mystery or problem before the resolution is presented. Notes in the back of the book tell the source of the folktale and thereby the country of origin. A superb book for developing divergent-thinking and problem-solving skills, this book is highly recommended as is its prequel, Stories to Solve (see below).

The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster; illustrated by Jules Feiffer
Random House, New York. 1989
Grades: 2–8
Milo has mysterious and magical adventures when he drives his car past The Phantom Tollbooth and discovers The Lands Beyond. On his journey Milo encounters amusing situations that involve numbers, geometry, measurement, and problem-solving. The play on words in the text is delightful.

Rubber Bands, Baseballs and Doughnuts: A Book about Topology
by Robert Froman; illustrated by Harvey Weiss
Thomas Y. Crowell, Minneapolis. 1972
Out of print
Grades: 4–8
An introduction into the world of topology through active reader participation. The activities provide concrete examples and insights into abstract concepts. Connects well to Game 4, Shongo Networks.

Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School
by Louis Sachar
Scholastic, New York. 1989
Grades: 3–5
This series of problems and puzzles uses "sideways arithmetic" to stimulate divergent-thinking skills and the funny bone. Sideways arithmetic approaches arithmetic as you have never seen before. A variety of problems and puzzles are presented which hold the interest and stimulate the brain of any reader. Connects well to all games in Math Around the World, especially Game 5, Magic Squares, which involve the use of addition.

Socrates and the Three Little Pigs
by Tuyosi Mori; illustrated by Mitsumasa Anno
G.P. Putnam, New York. 1986
Grades: 4–8
Socrates, a wolf, attempts to catch one of three pigs for his wife’s dinner. These three pigs collectively own five cottages. With the help of his frog friend, the mathematician Pythagoras, Socrates tries to determine the possible cottages the pigs might be in. As the story unfolds, the illustrations show the many possible locations of the pigs, and in doing so, visually and clearly show the difference between permutations and combinations. This type of math, known as combinatorial analysis, forms the basis for computer programming and problem solving and this connection is explained on a more advanced level in the back of the book. The problem solving aspect of this book connects well to all the games in the guide, but by specifically explaining permutations and combinations the book ties in best to probability in Game 6, Game Sticks. The book is also published under the title Anno’s Three Little Pigs.

Stories to Solve: Folktales from Around the World
by George Shannon: illustrated by Peter Sis
Greenwillow Books/William Morrow, New York. 1985
Grades: 3–8
These brief folktales from a variety of cultures invite you to solve a mystery or problem before the resolution is presented. Notes in the back of the book tell the source of the folktale and thereby the country of origin. A superb book for developing divergent-thinking and problem-solving skills, this book is highly recommended as is its sequel, More Stories to Solve.

Through the Looking Glass
by Lewis Carroll
Viking Penguin, New York. 1984
Grades: All ages
Logic keeps doing somersaults during Alice’s further adventures in Wonderland. She enters Wonderland through a mirror and finds a world completely opposite of the one she left behind. Nearly every page contains some twist on what we usually perceive and expect to happen. Ties in nicely with NIM (Game 1), Kalah (Game 2), and Hex (Game 8).

The Toothpaste Millionaire
by Jean Merrill; illustrated by Jan Palmer
Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1972
Grades: 5–8
Twelve-year-old Rufus doesn’t start out to become a millionaire—just to make toothpaste. Assisted by his friend Kate and his math class (which becomes known as Toothpaste 1), his company grows from a laundry room operation to a corporation with stock and bank loans. Many opportunities for estimations and calculations are presented including cubic inches, a gross of toothpaste tubes bought at auction, manufacturing expenses, and profits. An ideal book to illustrate the need for, and use of, mathematics in real-world problem solving.

Maze
by Christopher Manson
Henry Holt & Co., Inc., New York. 1995
Grades: 5–Adult

Based on the book, Maze: A Riddle in Words and Pictures by Christopher Manson (Henry Holt & Co., Inc., New York. 1985), this new dimension in literature can be found on the Internet at:
http://www.obs-us.com:80/obs/english/books/holt/books/maze/index.htm

As the Maze Directions say, "This is not really a book. This is a virtual space in the shape of a book…a maze. Each numbered page depicts a room in the Maze. The doors in each room lead to other rooms. Your challenge is to find your way from room 1 to room 45 and then back to room 1 using the shortest possible path. There are any number of clues in the drawings and in the story to help you choose the right door in each room." The reader goes into a room simply by clicking on one of the doors in the drawing. While not highly imaginative, this "book" is engaging, represents a new direction for books, and invites you, as the reader, to "use your head."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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