Story+Math+Diversity = One Mathical Book

We Need Diverse Books™ is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers with a goal of “putting more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children.” The organization is guided by the vision of “a world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.” Books like Andrea Beaty and David Robert’s delightful rhyming picture book, Ada Twist, Scientist, which inspired these two awesome curiousity-seeking scientist costumes on World Book Day.


We need diverse math picture books.  Charlesbridge and TERC, a non-profit STEM education center in Cambridge, MA, are collaborating on an initiative to develop better math storybooks for children of all backgrounds.  Submissions are due September 1, 2018 (go here for details). Here’s a list exemplary picture books from Charlesbridge, already on the market, which are equally rich in story, math, and diversity. We wrote about one of these books, Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong, here.

Another picture book equally rich in story, math and diversity is this week’s magical math book selection, Baby Goes to Market.

The Book

Published in 2017 by Candlewick press, Baby Goes to Market won the 2018 Mathical Book prize, an annual award organized by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) for fiction and nonfiction books that inspire children of all ages to see math in the world around them.

Baby Goes to Market was written by Nigerian-born Atinuke. Atinuke started her career doing traditional oral storytelling. Atinuke’s story follows Baby and Mama through a Nigerian Market. Baby is so adorable that the banana seller gives Baby six bananas. Baby eats one and secretly puts five bananas in Mama’s basket.  Baby continues to collect items at the market, eating one of each, and placing the rest in Mama’s basket.   The story ends with a secret between Baby and reader that is sure to bring a smile.

The illustrator is Angela Brooksbank. Baby Goes to Market is her debut picture book.  Brooksbank’s vibrant illustrations depict a crowded Nigerian market full colors, patterns, shapes, and people in a way that is neither overwhelming or distracting. Brooksbank’s lovely illustrations are a perfect match for Atinuke’s sweet, amusing story.  

This book is great for ages 3 and up.

Baby goes to marke

The Math

Starting with six bananas, Baby takes one and places five in the basket.  A consecutive pattern counting down from 6 to 1 follows with oranges, biscuits, corn and coconut.


The book invites counting, pattern recognition, subtraction and addition. As we read, I listened as my 5 and 8 year olds each used all of these mathematical ideas, in their own ways, at different times in the story.

The Magic

A Nigerian market is a different world for my children (we live in a suburb of Chicago). As we read, this different world sparked their curiosity. Here are some of their questions:

Why does Mama have a basket on her head?

What’s palm oil? Do you drink it?

Why do they have motorcycle taxis?

This book is reread A LOT in our house. In one day, my son requested we read this book 5 times.  The pattern to the fruit collection coupled with adorable Baby and the shared secret between Baby and reader really drew my children into this story.  “I know what comes next,” my son commented midway through the book and proceed to explain why. Then at the end of the book, after Mama says,  “Poor Baby! He’s not had one single thing to eat!” My daughter Siena exclaimed,   “Yes he did! He had 1 piece of coconut, 1 corn, 1 chin-chin biscuit, 1 orange, and 1 banana. See?!”  she explained, as if she was telling Mama.

Well this mama can see why Baby Goes to Market won the Mathical Book prize for 2018.  We’ll share some more magic from a second Mathical Book prize book in two weeks. In the meantime, have an idea for a diverse math story book? The Charlesbridge’s deadline is September 1st. Perfect time to start brainstorming. #weneeddiversemathbooks

Have a magical math book you’d like share? Please go to the Shared booklist to find out how.  If you’d like to receive these magical math book posts every other Monday, be sure to follow this blog in the side bar of this page.

Thanks and see you in two weeks!  #mathbookmagic

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