group of kids reading at their lockers

Bring Math to Life with Books

To help educators spark a love for math, First Book is thrilled to continue our partnership with the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI). Each year we feature Mathical Book Prize award-winning titles, recognized for inspiring ages 2-18 to connect with and enjoy math in the everyday world, on the Marketplace.

First Book partners with various organizations including MSRI to make a difference for educators and children while tackling educational inequality. First Book has worked with MSRI for seven years to help distribute literary fiction and nonfiction books chosen to promote a love of math in the world around us. In 2021, 261 educators used the MSRI promo code on the Marketplace and MSRI distributed over 2,600 Mathical books. Since MSRI and First Book’s partnership began, more than 10,000 Mathical books have been distributed to kids in need.

The Mathical Book Prize is awarded by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI), in partnership with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and in coordination with the Children’s Book Council (CBC). The prize is generously supported by the Firedoll Foundation and Joan and Irwin Jacobs.

We asked the educators impacted by MSRI’s support to reflect on their experience using the books with their students. We encourage you to read below to understand the impact access to these math-inspiring books has on the engagement and enjoyment of students.

Providing Access to Books and Math

Books and resources are critical, but scarce, for kids in need. Access to adequate resources is one of the greatest contributors to educational inequality in the United States. According to a study from 2019 published in the journal Social Science Research, the presence of books in the home of adolescents is correlated with improved adult literacy and numeracy. Our experience at First Book strongly suggests that providing students with brand new books keeps them motivated to learn and helps them be more successful, especially books that are themed to a specific subject, like math.

“Thank you so much for providing books for my students. Most of my students do not have access to free books, and do not have a history of independent reading.  Every book that expands their interests and introduces them to new experiences enriches their lives.” – Shawna F.

Promoting a Love of Math

Some students love math but not necessarily reading. For others, it might be the opposite. The Mathical titles, provided by MSRI, help students of all ages understand math and reading in a new way, helping math come to life in a creative way, outside of textbooks. Starting a love for math at a young age will enhance cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development that are necessary later in life. 

“Thank you so much for providing these books. You may never know the impact of your generosity. So, let me share with you that the exciting buzz of these books is getting students to talk about math in a different way, through literacy. Thank you very much!” – Michelle H.

Expanding Representation in the Classroom

Diverse representation in books is important for a child’s learning and success. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in the School of Education at the University of Wisconson-Madison, which compiles data on books by and about Black, Indigenous and People of Color published for children and teens, out of 3,299 children’s books received from publishers in 2020, only twelve percent featured Black/ African-American characters; nearly ten percent featured Asian-Pacific Americans characters, six percent featured Latinx characters, less than two percent featured Indigenous characters and less than one percent featured Pacific Islander or Arab characters.

Diverse representation in books is essential to empower children to be passionate in all subjects and help children make sense of the world around them. Diversity in the Mathical titles has been instrumental to educators seeking to engage students in the love of math. 

“These books are beneficial because they allow me to add more diverse books to my classroom library. Representation is so important and I love having kids be able to see themselves reflected in the books in the library.” – Helma L.

Visit the Mathical site to view the Mathical Book List, see downloadable grade-level flyers, access educator reading guides for many titles, and more.

Partner with First Book 

First Book works closely with leading businesses, nonprofits, and individuals to promote equal access to quality education for kids in need. Together, we have distributed more than 200 million new books and learning materials to schools and programs serving children from low-income families. 

We are deeply grateful for the support of our generous partners and eager to collaborate with organizations that care about making a difference on behalf of kids. We would love to explore ways to work together to provide many more books and resources to kids who need them.