The best books for kids starring math, bugs and strong girls

Jeannine Atkins Author Of Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math
By Jeannine Atkins

Who am I?

I was a girl who looked under rocks. Besides caring about crawling things and forests, I liked to read and write about history, which became the passion I followed into college and a career. No regrets, but I sometimes wonder what might have become of me if an interest in science was more encouraged and I was nudged past my fear of math. 

I wrote...

Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math

By Jeannine Atkins,

Book cover of Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math

What is my book about?

In Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math, free verse introduces some scientists who always found joy in math as well as those who found parts of it tough, but kept at it until they saw its beauty. Paths taken include astronomy, statistics, and physics, shown in the context of lives in which friendship and family matter a lot, too.

The books I picked & why

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Ten, Nine, Eight

By Molly Bang,

Book cover of Ten, Nine, Eight

Why this book?

This classic book, in board book form or paperback, is spare of words with bold pictures. A red carpet and green walls are set against a child’s bright yellow gown. A tender story mixes in elementary math, offering the charm of counting backwards. Soothing for bedtime, it’s one of my favorite gifts for the very youngest.

100 Bugs!: A Counting Book

By Kate Narita, Suzanne Kaufman (illustrator),

Book cover of 100 Bugs!: A Counting Book

Why this book?

This is a busy book in the best of ways. Counting is a start toward exploring the beauty and joy of creeping or flying bugs and the places they make as their homes. Honestly, what can be more fun to count than a variety of colorful bugs? We’re introduced to various ways to reach one hundred, an exhilarating number to aim for.

Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives

By Lola M. Schaefer, Christopher Silas Neal (illustrator),

Book cover of Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives

Why this book?

There’s plenty to count on the pages, but this book soars by stressing the repetition of events in the lifetimes of spiders, snakes, kangaroos, and other animals. The word “amazing” in the title sets a bar that’s met as we learn that a woodpecker will drill thirty holes in trees. A giraffe will sport 200 spots. And there’s much more for eager readers to count.

Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer

By Diane Stanley, Jessie Hartland (illustrator),

Book cover of Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer

Why this book?

The daughter of a poet and a scientific mother, Ada is shown growing up in the early 1800s with both imagination and a bent toward math. As a girl, she dreams of building a steam-powered flying horse. She’s fascinated by machines and eager to tour factories. Seeing how cards are used to set patterns for cloth on looms inspires her to create the first computer program. Whimsical illustrations adorn clear explanations of calculations. At the book’s end we see Ada in red-striped stockings and green goggles flying over symbols of some of what her ideas will bring to the world.

Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain

By Cheryl Bardoe, Barbara McClintock (illustrator),

Book cover of Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain

Why this book?

Here’s another picture book featuring a woman from another century who loved math. The story of this trailbreaker is told lyrically with the title occasionally echoing.  We see the failures inevitable when one sets a difficult mathematical quest -- to understand patterns in vibrations -- as well as setbacks due to gender bias. Painting and collages are joyfully animated, including numbers hurtling through the background.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in women in mathematics, counting, and mathematicians?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about women in mathematics, counting, and mathematicians.

Women In Mathematics Explore 11 books about women in mathematics
Counting Explore 17 books about counting
Mathematicians Explore 29 books about mathematicians

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like ADA Byron Lovelace & the Thinking Machine, Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13, and The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars if you like this list.