Three Picture Books for Preschoolers on Problem Solving

Three Picture Books for Preschoolers on Problem Solving
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Great Books for Math Problem Solving

Remember that life is a story problem. For children to take an interest in math skills, it needs to be relevant. Children need to see math being used in everyday situations. Using pictures to solve math equations is a natural process for students to understand why 2 + 2=4. With that in mind, for preschool children, books dealing with problem solving are reviewed below.


Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends at the Circus by Jill Anderson is a great resource to combine the basic process of addition with an entertaining premise. Full color illustrations are ample for the whole class to count the items. There is also a notebook in the illustration that numerically shows the problem. So the children see the same concept in different formats. The students are also introduced to the terms: sum, dozen, addends, and doubles.

Sebastian is at the circus and lots of crazy things happen! Four clowns each drove into the center ring and suddenly two elephants skate into the area. Crash! How many in all? Later, four tigers and eight lions toss beach balls. A group of twelve is a dozen.

Activity: Instruct students to draw a circus scene that can be made into a story problem. For example: Draw three elephants and two lions and four clowns. Can we add three groups of things? 3+2+4= 9

Subtracting with Sebastian Pig and Friends on a Camping Trip by Jill Anderson

This book has the same format as mentioned above. Students will have fun looking at the illustrations to see who has the missing items. Those pesky mice may have something to do with it!

Sebastian and his friends are camping. When they are in the rowboat only two oars can be found and there should be three oars. Will they sink? How many oars are missing? 3-2=1

Getting ready to eat, they only find two hot dogs when there should be five hot dogs! How many are missing? 5-2= 3 (Those silly mice are using the hot dogs for water skis!)

The notebook portion of the illustrations shows the concept of fact families. Showing the connection between addition and subtraction, even with your young students, will make problem solving easier as problems get more difficult.

Activity: Use a felt board and felt board characters of any sort to show story problems using subtraction. By moving the characters around, show how the numbers are all part of a fact family. For example: Four animals are there, one runs away. How many are left? 4-1=3. The animal comes back. Now how many 3+1=4

Other Kinds of Problem Solving

Not All Animals Are Blue by Beatrice Boutignon


I love this book! And so did my 3 1/2 year old granddaughter. It really gets the children thinking. The book will introduce new vocabulary and some deductive reasoning as the questions are answered. Sometimes, using the process of elimination is the way to solve a problem.

If possible, when using this book with the whole class, it would be fun to make overhead transparencies of the illustrations. If this is not possible, the book will work just fine if you are able to have the students gather around to study the simple pictures.

The format of the book shows the illustration of five different animals on the right side and five questions/statements on the left side. For example: There are five animals each carrying or wearing some sort of rain gear. The questions/statements are: 1) Who hates to get wet? 2) He’s blowing away. 3) Whose umbrella shines like the sun? 4) He likes to feel the raindrops on his face. 5) But he just likes the puddles.

Students have to study the picture to be able to match the animal with the statement/question, in other words, solve the problem.

Some of the questions require solving the meaning of an unknown word by seeing it in context. For example: Point to the picture that shows the giraffe that matches the statement, “She’s very flexible.” If the child does not know the word flexible, then he/she needs to narrow down the choices, thus using a problem solving strategy.