Nature Picture Books for Mathematical Thinking

If you ask me, just about anything can be taught in an outdoor classroom. Math and Science are two of the easiest subjects to try first when you want to spend more time with your class in nature.

In an outdoor classroom, it is generally easier to forget about the worksheets, pencil and paper activities and to simply dig-in to hands on learning. In order to give the lesson a focus, and to make the learning intention clear for students, I find it helps to begin with a related picture book that helps students anchor their understanding of the mathematical concepts you’ll explore outdoors that day.

Below are my top picks for nature inspired picture books that support mathematical thinking:

Support Mathematical Thinking With Nature Picture Books

Lizann Flatt has developed a series of nature picture books that are suitable for teaching number sense, patterns and shapes in the context of the natural world. Each book in her series covers one season of the year, which also ties in nicely with observing seasonal change, and is suitable for the early primary grades.

Zero is the Leaves on the Tree by Betsy Franco is a good book to explore the concept and place value of zero with young children.

Beautifully illustrated, Swirl by Swirl by Joyce Sidman looks at the big question of why the swirl shape and pattern occurs over and over again in nature.

Growing Patterns by Sarah Campbell is simply the best book for exploring Fibonacci Number Patterns with children of all ages.

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature by Sarah Campbell is an excellent resource for introducing repeating patterns and fractals in nature.

Just a Second by Steve Jenkins takes readers on a quest to understand time in the natural world.

Math for All Seasons by Greg Tang helps students use pattern, symmetry and number to problem solve. Most of his books are not necessarily nature-based, but they use the natural world to help students become flexible problem solvers. Also check out his newest book, Math Potato.

Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives by Lola Schaefer is an amazing look at the numbers in nature and the animals who populate our planet

Flow, Spin, Grow: Looking for Patterns In Nature by Patchen Barss and Todd Stewart encourages children to look for repeating patterns in the most unexpected places!

Wild Fibonacci: Nature’s Code Revealed by Joy N. Hulme explains where we find the fibonacci code in nature in kid-friendly rhymes.

Count on Me by Miguel Tanco takes you on a journey of seeing the beauty of the world through math.

I’m an enormous advocate for taking your teaching outdoors. Concepts that children struggle to learn are more easily understood when the learning is meaningful, relevant and hands on. Be sure to follow me on Instagram to follow along with my journey in my outdoor classroom and my Pinterest pages are full of brilliant ideas from like minded teachers across the world.

For teachers new to teaching outside, I recommend you read my post on how to transition to teaching outdoors, as well as what to wear when you are teaching outdoors!


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