NCTM’s Teaching Children Mathematics

“These four introductory books on basic geometric shapes all follow the same formulaic pattern. They are brightly illustrated with paper cuts and images of diverse children. Each book begins with a very brief introduction to the shape, followed by the direction to ‘turn the page and sing along.’ The rhyming text is put to music, and children can sing along with the words on the accompanying CD, the text in the book, the music score at the back of the book, or on the website for Cantata Learning. Each book also contains a short glossary and similar ‘Guided Reading Activities’ at the end.

A difficulty with these books is that in ‘Circle, A Cookie or the Sun in the Sky,’ the author writes, ‘A circle is a shape with only one side.’ This definition is open to some mathematical discussion, but most commonly used elementary school texts describe a circle as having no sides. As well, the author blurs the distinction between circles and spheres, identifying the sun, a ball, and the earth as circles. The distinction between flat and three-dimensional objects is also confused in the other books, including examples of blocks, books, the pyramids, and televisions, among others.

The publisher recommends these books for ages 3–8. With appropriate discussion and explanation, they could be used to introduce the shapes in an interactive way. Adult guidance would definitely be recommended to clarify the confusion the content can create.

Judith E. Gilson, University of San Francisco–California.

Read the review in the October 2016 print edition of Teaching Children Mathematics, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of Math.

Stream or download The Shapes All Around Us songs for free!

Circle: A Cookie or the Sun in the Sky
Rectangle: A Flag or a Paper Bag
Square: A Pizza Box or a Checkerboard
Triangle: A Slice of Pizza or a Mountain Peak