Early Childhood

ORIGO Big Books for Grades Pre-K–2 A Path to Learning Math

Stories are one of the most fundamental ways that humans communicate. All cultures have created stories to help them make sense of the world and our place in it. Scholars believe, although it may be impossible to ever prove, that storytelling started not long after humans developed language. In fact, the oldest known stories—the cave drawings in Lascaux and Chavaux, France—were created more than 30,000 years ago.

One of the primary reasons we tell stories is that they help us communicate information in a way that resonates. We tend to remember information that is conveyed via an interesting story rather than set forth as a list of dry facts. Think about the stories you learned as a toddler, you most likely can recite at least a few of them word for word even though you may not have heard or read the stories in years. Now think about those stories told through rhythm and rhyme. I don’t know about you, but I can still sing dozens of nursery rhymes.

Since math permeates our world, many children’s stories naturally discuss some mathematical concepts—positional language, growing and repeating patterns, counting, comparisons, etc. Research shows that incorporating math into stories helps children better understand and remember math concepts. But it can be hard to find the right book to teach the concept you and your students are currently studying.

That’s why ORIGO created the Big Book series which introduces and reinforces the key math concepts young children need to learn in grades Pre-K–2. There are 12 large-format, beautifully illustrated storybooks per grade level, each telling fun, rhyming stories that are also set to music. Each book includes teacher’s notes, class activities, print and/or digital student materials, and videos. The ORIGO Big Books were designed to complement the ORIGO Stepping Stones curriculum, but can be used to supplement any elementary math program.

ORIGO Big Books Build Confident Mathematicians

As mentioned earlier, selecting the right book to teach a particular concept can be challenging. When you use the stories in the Big Book series, you can be confident that the stories meet five key criteria:

  1. Accuracy: the math facts and concepts are presented and labeled correctly, and the illustrations elucidate and complement the text.
  2. Visual and Verbal Appeal: the story and illustrations are compelling.
  3. Connections: the math connections are authentic and help students think deeply about math.
  4. Audience: The math concepts are grade-level appropriate and tied to standards.
  5. Wow Factor: The stories engage young children and make them excited to learn math.

Stories make math accessible to all students. The Big Books series presents grade-appropriate math concepts and facts in a non-threatening way and engages young children in learning through fun stories with compelling characters. The colorful illustrations enhance the text and further elucidate the math concepts presented, helping students see the math at work. Simply put, these stories help young children relate to math in a way that captivates and resonates. These stories can also decrease math anxiety and help students develop a positive attitude toward math.

The Big Books, and accompanying student materials, are presented in both English and Spanish, offering many ELL students a way to master grade-level math concepts regardless of English language competence. And the Spanish text presents all students with an opportunity to learn key phrases and words in a second language.

Stories that rhyme improve retention. Research shows that rhymes help students cement learning through acoustic encoding, the processing of information for memory storage and future retrieval. The stories in the Big Book series incorporate rhymes, making it easier for students to recall the math facts and concepts introduced, even weeks and months later. Additionally, the Big Book stories are set to catchy, upbeat music. Recent research indicates that music helps us not only retrieve stored memories, but also helps us lay down new memories. This means that when students listen to and sing the songs in the Big Book series, they create new math memories that they can draw upon later as needed.

Stories provide context for math concepts. I’m sure that you have had students tell you that they don’t understand why they need to learn math, since their parents have told them that they have never used the math they learned in school. But as we know, math permeates our world, and we use it every day. The stories in the Big Book series show young children how math relates to their daily lives—whether it is determining equal parts, understanding patterns, exploring the concept of time, etc. By presenting math in context, the stories make math relevant.

Stories prompt rich math discourse. If you are simply looking at a math equation (2 + 2 = 4), it can be difficult, especially for young children, to engage in robust discussion based on that equation. But introduce a story about animals who have different numbers of legs and suddenly your students are actively engaged in discussing how to add, subtract, and compare legs. Each story illustrates a key math concept(s) encouraging students to talk about not only what happens mathematically in the story, but also to extend the math to other situations. In fact, we provide multiple activities built around the story that allow students to thoroughly explore and discuss the math concept in different ways. Additionally, the Big Book stories use grade-appropriate mathematical language, so students learn how to use math vocabulary correctly.

Stories help students make connections. Math is a discipline that builds upon itself. So, it’s critical that students learn to make connections between math concepts which lays the foundation for further learning. Research shows that teaching math through stories can help students more easily make connections between math concepts. The sequence of stories in the Big Book series follows the logical introduction of math concepts for each grade and mirrors the ORIGO Stepping Stones curriculum. For example, in grade 1, when students learn about missing-addend subtraction in Joe’s Carrots, they have already encountered the concept of take-away subtraction in Cupcake Capers and can make the connection between the two concepts.

The Big Book series strengthens students’ understanding and retention of key mathematical concepts, stimulates rich math discourse, introduces and reinforces mathematical language, and shows students that math is important and relevant to their lives.

ORIGO Big Book Series
Below are just a few of the stories (and integrated math concepts) for each grade.

Sample Pre-K Stories/Concepts

  • How Many Animals? – counting to 5
  • Caty the Caterpillar – time and sequencing
  • I think I’ll go flying – positional language
  • Stan the Firefighter – comparing objects

Sample Grade K Stories/Concepts

  • Hip Hop Hippos—Relative Position
  • Mice, Mice Everywhere—Static Addition, Balance, and Equality
  • Scaredy Cat—Combinations of Ten
  • These and Those—Missing-Addend Subtraction

Sample Grade 1 Stories/Concepts

  • Bear and Badger—Comparison Subtraction
  • I See, You See—Numbers 1–10 and Subitizing
  • Shoes in Twos—Skip Counting
  • The Best Bug—Nonstandard Units of Measure

Sample Grade 2 Stories/Concepts

  • A Dozen Dizzy Dinosaurs—Division (equal groups)
  • Muddy, Muddy Mess—3D Objects and 2D shapes
  • Pieces and Parts—Fractions (area model)
  • The Tiny Town Train—Time Past the Hour
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Sara Delano Moore, Ph.D.

ORIGO Education

ORIGO Education has partnered with educators for over 25 years to make math learning meaningful, enjoyable and accessible to all.

About The ORIGO Approach
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