Webinar Replay: Using Children’s Literature to Teach Math

MathBookMarilyn Burns, a mathematics educator and the founder of Math Solutions, leads a webinar on mixing story times with math. In this webinar, she shares how she uses books to introduce math topics, stimulate problem solving, and develop students’ reasoning and thinking skills. Scholastic will let you watch a reply of this webinar at any time.

Webinar Replay


Webinar: Instagram for Public Libraries

instagram-iconTechSoup is offering a free webinar on “Instagram for Public Libraries: Good Practices for Social Media.” Many libraries are trying to keep up with the latest incarnations of so-called social media, and two — Burlingame Public Library (Calif.) and Cherry Hill Public Library (NJ) — have been very successful using Instagram. Representatives from those libraries will share their best practices and explain what they’ve learned.

Registration and more information.

STEM Program: Bedtime Math’s Crazy 8s Club

Crazy 8s is a recreational after-school math club that is available forCrazy8sSidebar library use. The creators call it “math gone wild, nothing like your usual math club!” Click here for more details on Crazy 8s.

Here’s the outline of Crazy 8s’ “Let’s Get Loud” program, which is aimed at children in 3rd-5th grades:

The Big Idea

You’ll use water and straws to generate different sounds, then make a pan flute out of milkshake straws. Finally, you get to yell into a decibel meter to find out how loud you can be — using math the whole time to create funky music.


Bedtime Math provides

  • Milkshake straws (9 per child)
  • Measuring tapes (1 per child)

You provide:

  • Scissors (1 per child)
  • Markers (1 per child)
  • Rolls of masking tape
  • Paper or plastic cups (1 per child; half-filled with water to start)
  • Free sound meter app for a smart phone or computer (e.g. Decibel 10th for iPhone)
  • Free keyboard/piano app (for bonus)

Key Prep

  • Fill 1 paper or plastic cup for each child halfway with water.
  • Maker your own pan flute ahead of time to use as an example during the activity.

What’s the Math

  • Measuring length
  • Comparing and sequencing lengths
  • Simple relationships between variables


Intro: Did you know that no one can hear you yell in outer space? That’s because there’s no air! When we make sound, we’re actually rippling the air into waves. Today we’re going to test two math ideas about sound — the pitch, or how high or low a sound is; and the volume, how loud it is.

A Watery Whistle (5 minutes)

Intro to the kids: The strings or pipes of a xylophone or a guitar play different musical notes because they’re different lengths. We can see how this works with a milkshake straw and a cup of water.

  1. Have each child take 1 full-length straw and practice blowing across the top of the straw, rather than through it.
  2. Have each child put a straw into his/her half-filled cup.
  3. Tell the kids to blow across the top of the straw as they move it up and down in the water.

Ask the kids: What happens to the sound? Why? How does the length of the straw relate to the pitch (high or low notes)?

Bonus questions (optional): Why does this happen? (Shorter pieces produce sounds with shorter wavelengths, which are higher in pitch)

Have everyone drink or pour out the water to prepare for the next activity.

Be the Pied Piper (25 minutes)

PanPipeIntro: Now we’re going to use this idea to make our own pan flutes!

  1. Hand each child 8 straws, a measuring tape, a marker, and scissors.
  2. Using a measuring tape, each child measures and marks his/her 8 straws with a line at the following lengths (1 measurement per straw)
    • 9 inches
    • 8 inches
    • 7 1/8 inches
    • 6 3/4 inches
    • 6 inches
    • 5 3/8 inches
    • 4 3/4 inches
    • 4 1/2 inches
  3. Kids draw an X on the part of each straw past the marking. This is the piece they will throw away.
  4. Kids should cut each straw at the line they drew and put their completed flute pieces into their cups to keep track of them.
  5. The kids test the sounds of their straws: They hold each straw with one end pointing up and blow gently across the top.

Ask the kids: Do the straws sound the same? Which straws made higher notes?

  1. Using masking tape, kids should tape over one of each straw so no air can escape.

Ask the kids: How does the sound change when you cover one end? (It drops by one octave.)

  1. After taping the ends, have the kids put the straws in order of length, from longest to shortest, with the shortest on the left.
  2. The top open ends should all be lined up.
  3. Help the kids tape across the straws to hold them together.
  4. Now the kids blow across the top to make music.

Ask the kids: How does the sound change according to straw length? (Shorter straws make higher notes.) In math, the way two or more things change with each other — like the pitch and the length of the straw — is called their correlation. When the temperature rises, what else goes up? (e.g. thirst, the desire to go swimming) What does down (we wear fewer clothes)

Bonus (optional): If you have tuned instrument handy (guitar, keyboard, smartphone app), you can experiment to find out what notes the kids’ pan flutes play. they can then label the notes on the tape.

Be Loud (15 minutes)

Intro: Did you know that you can use numbers to measure noise? Sound is measured in decibels. Let’s use a sound meter to find out how loud you are!

  1. DecibelRoll out 10 feet on a measuring tape, lock it, and place it on the floor. Kids gather at one end of the 10-foot tape, while you stand at the other.
  2. Open up one of the suggested free sound-meter apps.
  3. The musicians play their flutes one at a time, 10 feet away from your sound meter. Watch and compare the meter readings.
  4. Now try voices. Kids take turns standing 10 feet from the meter and talking, while a partner watches the meter to see the range of readings and the peak sound.
  5. Then, one volunteer holds a long, loud note on “ah.” Everyone notes the decibel level.
  6. Then the hollerer walks toward the meter while holding that loud note.
  7. See if the next yeller can get louder. Note: Encourage them not to screech — they actually be louder if they “belt” instead.

Ask the kids: What happened to the decibel readings as people go closer?  Unlike an inch, which is always the same amount, decibels change with distance for the same sound: They drop as you stand farther from the noise, and rise as you stand closer.

Cool fact: When you go up 10 decibels, you double the loudness!

A Touch of Class

Intro: Did you ever realize there is so much math in music — and that it’s just like the math you use in class? Your text books might ask

  1. Which is longer, 1/8 inch of 1/2 inch?
  2. If you have 3/4 inch and cut off 1/4 inch, what’s left?

Kids can take home their pan flutes to explore music and math even more.

— Emily Trezza, West Hempstead Public Library




Voting Opens for CBC Awards

The Children’s Book Council is inviting young readers, teachers, parents and librarians(!) to vote for their favorite books. Take a look at the finalists below, then click on the link to get to the CBC page. Don’t forget to invite your patrons to vote too!

Finalists For 2016 Children’s & Teen Choice Book Awards

Book of the Year K-2nd Grade:
Clark & Shark by Bruce Hale, illustrated by Guy Francis
The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine, illustrated by Marc Brown
Sick and Stone by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Sick Simon by Dan Krall
To the Sea by Cate Atkinson
Book of the Year 3-4th Grade:
Fort by Cynthia DeFelice
Funny Bones by Duncan Tonatiuh
I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton
Monkey and Elephant and a Secret Birthday Surprise by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Galia Bernstein
Escape From the Lizards (Newts: Book 1) by Doug TenNapel
Book of the Year 5-6th Grade:
Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman
Hilo Book!: The Boy Who Crashed To Earth by Judd Winick
Saved by the Bell by Joelle Sellner, illustrated by Chyna Clugston-Flores and Tim Fish
The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Tom Gates: Everything’s Amazing (Sort Of) by Liz Pichon
Book of the Year Teen:
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Mass
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Winter by Marissa Meyer
PS, I Still Love You by Jenny Han
Teen Choice Debut Author:
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
An Ember in Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Children’s Choice Debut Author:
The Question Of Miracles by Elena K. Arnold
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
George by Alex Gino
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath
Children’s Choice Illustrator of the Year:
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
Big Family by Mike Curato
Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli
Strictly No Elephants Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (written by Lisa Mantchev)
The Red Hat Illustrated by Antoinette Portis (written by David Teague)

Webinar: Make, Do, Share

WebJunctionOCLC’s WebJunction is offering a webinar on how libraries can become STEM central for their communities. “Make, Do, Share: Build a STEM Learning Community” explains how the Kitsap Regional Library System developed a ready-to-use system that any library can implement to become STEM leaders.

Thursday, April 28; 3:00-4:00 p.m.

Click here for more information and to register.

STEM Story Time: Read, Explore, Create

RobotStemThe Freeport Memorial Library’s Read, Explore, Create is an informational story time during which a non-fiction story or two are read to the children, then a related hands-on activity or experiment is performed by the students. The library runs sessions for first and second graders and for third and fourth graders. The Powerpoint presentation included here shows highlights from recent programs.

Read, Explore, Create

–Jessica Jansen, Freeport Memorial Library

Webinar: What’s New In Children’s Literature

InfopeopleInfopeople, which provides training for librarians by librarians, is offering a webinar on new children’s books on Thursday, April 14, at 3:00 p.m. The discussion will cover books published in late 2015 and spring 2016, including board books, picture books, genre fiction, graphic novels and more. The webinar is geared to books for children between 0 and 12 years old.

Click here for more information and to register.