Resources mentioned in this episode:

Children’s Mathematics: Cognitively Guided Instruction by Thomas Carpenter, Elizabeth Fennema, Megan Loef Franke, Linda Levi, Susan B. Empson

Teaching Student Centered Mathematics by John Van de Walle, LouAnn Lovin, Karen Karp, Jennifer Bay-Williams

PreK-2nd grade

3rd -5th grade

6th-8th grade

Young Mathematicians at Work by Cathy Fosnot, Marteen Dolk, Bill Jacob

Constructing Number Sense, Addition & Subtraction

Constructing Multiplication and Division

Constructing Fractions, Decimals, and Percents

Constructing Algebra

Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 97.  Today I want to give you my Top Elementary Math Books for Your Summer 2021 Reading.

Welcome to Build Math Minds the podcast, where fidelity to your students is greater than fidelity to your textbook. I’m your host, Christina Tondevold, the recovering traditionalist and Founder, where my mission is to change the way we teach elementary math to our kiddos. Are you ready to start building math minds and not just creating calculators? Let’s get started.

I share a lot about math ed books I’ve read on this podcast, but I get asked a lot which books are my top recommendations.  This is a tough question to answer because it depends upon what you’re wanting to learn about.  If you are wanting to learn more about fact fluency, I’ve got a list for that.  If you are wanting to learn more about fractions, I’ve got a list for that.  Need help figuring out Measurement, I’ve got recommendations for that.  Now, not really, I don’t have them compiled together, but I could…so don’t email me asking for those lists…they are only in my head right now.

But there are some books that I think are just general books that may not be content specific, but they give us a foundation for teaching all the math concepts.  So as we head into Summer 2021, a time when teachers actually have some down time…yet use that downtime to continue their professional learning on their time off…I thought I’d give you my Top Elementary Math Books that every elementary educator should have on their bookshelves.  If this summer you plan to do nothing related to teaching then you can turn this episode off and save it for another time, because after this school year you deserve to not be thinking about school for a while.

For those of you who do want to do some professional reading, keep on listening. 

If you’ve ever seen some of my early videos, then you’ve seen my wall of bookshelves and the mounds of books I have.  I’m only sharing 3 books with you today because I don’t want to overwhelm you.  I picked these three books because they really are the first place I tell anyone to start.

#1: Children’s Mathematics: Cognitively Guided Instruction by Thomas Carpenter and team

This book was the first book to open my eyes to the teaching of mathematics in a non-traditional way.  It showed me that kids are problem solvers without us, as their teacher, pre-teaching how to solve the problems.  The book is based off the research of the CGI group that showed that focusing instruction on helping children solve math problems in context instead of bare problems (like just equations) did not affect their performance on traditional math tests compared to kids who were taught in classrooms whose focus was on solving bare math problems.  But when those same groups of kids were given an assessment that involved story problems, the CGI group scored significantly higher than the kids in the traditional math classrooms.  The book goes into detail about what Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) is and how you can create a classroom focused on creating problem solvers, not answer getters.

#2: Teaching Student Centered Mathematics by John Van de Walle and team

I call this book my Math Bible.  My copies of these books are so dog-eared, highlighted, and sticky-noted.  It is my go-to book anytime I have a concern about helping a student with a specific math concept.  There are books for certain grade bands, PreK-2, 3-5, and 6-8.  All the books start out the same with information about teaching through problem solving, assessments for learning, differentiation, and so on.  Then each book moves into what student-centered mathematics looks like for all the math concepts we teach in those specific grade bands.  It is a wonderful resource that has a permanent place on my desk.

#3: Young Mathematicians at Work by Cathy Fosnot and team

This series of books was my first introduction to the idea that the learning of mathematics was not necessarily a progression like it typically is laid out in the progression of lessons in a textbook, it’s more complicated than that.  In the books, Cathy presents the idea of a Landscape of Learning.  The learning of mathematics is not linear, it’s messy and full of times we have to go off the linear path to help kids build their understanding.  These books were also the first place I learned of minilessons, which now are commonly called number strings.  There is a whole chapter about how to create them in each of the books.  There are four books in this series: Constructing Number Sense, Addition & Subtraction, Constructing Multiplication and Division, Constructing Fractions, Decimals, and Percents, and Constructing Algebra.  So get the one that meets your needs.

These 3 books are ones that I can credit to starting the change in my own understanding and teaching of mathematics and they continue to be resources that I go back to again and again.  If you don’t have any, or all, of these books I highly encourage you to put them on your summer reading list.

This episode is brought to you by the Build Math Minds Professional Development site. It’s an online site full of PD videos designed specifically for elementary teachers to help you build your math mind so you can build the math minds of your students. If you are interested in getting in depth math PD at your fingertips become a member of Build Math Minds. Just go to Depending upon when you’re listening to this, enrollment might be open or you can join the wait list and get notified when it opens again.

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.