#EarlyMath: A Math Story Stuffed with Magic

With a 4 year old preschooler at home, I’ve been particularly interested in magical resources that illuminate the mathematical horizon of early math. As I mentioned in my last post, Big Ideas of Early Mathematics: What Teachers of Young Children Need to Know by Erikson Institute’s Early Math Collaborative provides a helpful anchor into the big ideas of early math. The first big idea they outline is SETS: Using Attributes to Make Collections. This post is about a magical picture book that explores sets.

The Book

The Animals Would Not Sleep! is one of seven books (!) published in 2020 as part of the Storytelling Math series from Charlesbridge. Two books from the series, The Animals Would Not Sleep! and Lia & Luís: Who Has More? (by Ana Crespo
and Giovana Medeiros), recently won Mathical book awards.

Storytelling Math books “offer a wide range of math topics, feature main characters of color, appeal to a broad audience, and are written by a diverse array of authors.” [From Storytelling Math website] I can’t wait to share more magic from this amazing series. But first, here’s more about this wonderful book.

Written by Sara Levine and illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns, The Animals Would Not Sleep! tells the story of Marco’s bedtime woes. Marco must pick up his stuffed animals before bed. However, the stuffed animals are not happy with how Marco has sorted them into their baskets. Marco explores different sorts in the hopes everyone can peacefully go to bed.

From The Animals Would Not Sleep! by Levine and Álvarez Miguéns

In addition to her work as an educator and author, Sara Levine is a veterinarian. Her love of animals shines through her story which pairs perfectly with Álvarez Miguéns’ vibrant, delightful illustrations. For more about the author and her books go here. For more about the illustrator and her art go here.

The sweet spot for this book is ages 3 to 6.  

The Math

The math in this book is sets and sorting. Here are the big ideas involving sets identified by The Big Ideas of Early Mathematics.


Big Idea 1a*: Attributes can be used to sort collections into sets. [Examples of attributes: Color, size, shape, fill patterns]

Big Idea 1b: The same collection can be sorted in different ways.

Big Idea 1c: Sets can be compared and ordered.

*The Erikson book does not include these letter labels (a, b, c). I do this for clarity. They are not meant to denote any sort of learning progression.

In Animals Would Not Sleep!, Marco uses different attributes to sort his stuffed animals (Big Idea 1a). He begins sorting by mode of travel (e.g., flying animals, swimming animals, animals that move on land) , then size (see image above), then color before finally settling on a solution. In this way, readers observe Marco sort the same collection in different ways (Big Idea 1b). While not explicit to this book, a discussion of comparing sets (Big Idea 1c) came up when Landon wondered which bin had more (images below from the book).

From The Animals Would Not Sleep! by Levine and Álvarez Miguéns

For more information on the math of sets and some ideas on how to play around with sets at home: check out my new post at www.fairymathmother.com. Additionally, the Charlesbridge website offers Animals Would Not Sleep! activities here (be sure to select the “Downloadables” tab).

The Magic

The magic of this book lies in pairing a mathematical content with something many children adore. Carrie Finison did it with doughnuts here. And Sara Levine does it with stuffed animals. As a kid, I carefully arranged my stuffed animal at the head of my bed and my children do the same now. Here is a photo of Landon’s bed and my daughter Siena’s bed.

My favorite thing to do with Landon is reading picture books. We call it “Story Snuggle Time” and it is right before lunch. As we cuddled under the covers with The Animals Would Not Sleep!, Landon was captivated from the first page. The illustrations offer a lot of variety. Landon was pointing and noticing the different animals (their colors, the animal species). “Look there’s one like giraffy” Landon said pointing to one like his own stuffed giraffe.

Landon made an empathetic “aw” when crying bear was unhappy and a relieved “awww” when Marco found a sweet resolution on the final spread. On this last spread (which I won’t share as it gives away the ending), Landon snuggled in close to get good look and asked me to read it again. As I turned back to the front cover, he left the room. Minutes later, he came back with an armful of stuffed animals, climbed up, carefully arranged them on the bed and told me “OK, go!” And we did. I knew at that moment, this book belonged to our magical set of math picture books!

You can purchase The Animals Would Not Sleep! from Charlesbridge, Bookshop, Indie bound, Barnes and Noble or Amazon.


If you’d like to receive these magical math book posts every month, be sure to follow this blog in the side bar of this page. Thanks and see you soon!  Touch #mathbookmagic, pass it on.  

5 thoughts on “#EarlyMath: A Math Story Stuffed with Magic

Add yours

  1. Hey, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog site in Chrome, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, terrific blog!


  2. Excited to read The Animals Would Not Sleep to get the ending part. It has to be a grrrrreat ending for your son to go get his animal friend to here the ending part of the story.

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