Review: How Many? by Christopher Danielson

5.0 rating
  • PublisherCharlesbridge Publishing
  • Pages40

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Overview

Danielson refers to the book How Many? as “a different kind of counting book.” With this description, he positions the book for toddlers through early elementary children. The book is full of beautiful images (warning: it might make you hungry!) that build on each other as pieces of a larger story. The few words in the book encourage readers to focus on asking the question “How many?” with each image and explore counting as many things as the readers can see.

The images in How Many? give opportunities for lots of observations, not just one. For example, we might be inclined to count “15,” but 15 what? Another person might count the number of avocado pits. A third might count the total number of whole avocados, or the number of rows, or the number of stripes on the counter, etc.

This approach truly does make the book a “different kind of counting book.”

  • Flexibility in what’s counted encourages a child’s natural creativity and exploratory instincts
  • Counting is practiced over and over again in a variety of contexts, leading children to know not only how to count, but also understand deeply what counting actually is.
  • Flexibility in what’s counted allows the book to be read and reread over and over again either with or without repetition, depending on what the child desires
  • Finding the “units” (what is being counted) encourages completing the idea, sets the child up for future success in mathematical reasoning (in particular, the Common Core Mathematical Practice #2)

How to Read/Use

You can use this book like other story books in your home. It can be straightforwardly read and the images enjoyed together just like any other picture book.

The book is easy to reread over and over again. At different developmental stages, individual children might appreciate either the repetition of counting the same things over and over, or the variance of observing and counting something new about each image.

The book can engage groups of either same-age or multi-age children, and even adults. Each reader can make counts and observations according to their own stage and observations. The images are both complicated enough for multiple levels of observation as well as ease of explaining what the observation actually is.

Reading the book can easily be turned into a feel-good game between reader and child or within a small group. Try a cooperative challenge of finding how many ways you can count in each image (count the ways you can count!). Or guess what each other counted based on the number they came up with.

Once you see the end image, go back and tell or invent the story that is threaded through the book and the piece of the story that each page shows.

There are a myriad ways to engage with this book both as parent-child as well as in group settings. I’m sure there are several I haven’t even thought of here.

Cultural and Educational Impact

With How Many?, Danielson’s influence once again reaches deeply into social media. This social media influence has generated a wide range of both beautiful and everyday images to supplement those found in the book.

The #HowMany hashtag is, of course, quite generic. Using this hashtag alone in your favorite social media may bring up more than the images you seek. However, using the #howmany hashtag in combination with either #arraychat, #tmwyk (“talking math with your kids”), or sometimes #unitchat brings up a plethora of similar images. (The author was instrumental in building the popularity of both of these hashtags in their early days as well.) When you’ve thoroughly explored the book with your child, these hashtags provide a great source of both additional images as well as inspiration to help you see opportunities in the world around you to ask the question How Many?

In a missed opportunity, the classroom influence of this book doesn’t seem to run quite as deep as his earlier book (Which One Doesn’t Belong?). However, this does leave the idea wide open for parents to embrace this question and enjoy the conversations and relationship-building it brings.

Author

A highly creative and engaging educator, Christopher Danielson describes himself as an “author, educator, dad.” He started teaching in the Minnesota K-12 schools in 1994, apparently focusing on middle school. After earning his PhD in 2005, he taught 10 years of college mathematics before leaning further into his entrepreneurial, creative, and coaching spirit. His work demonstrates a strong belief in exploring math through play. In addition to his books, Christopher has created and sells a variety of unusual tiling blocks and other tools that allow children, teens, and adults to explore mathematics through play. His tiling blocks in particular are used by an increasing number of high school teachers to engage students in creative mathematical thinking during transition times between classes.

Known as TriangleMan on various social media platforms, Christopher is often found inciting math teachers far and wide into playfully exploring ideas and principles in ways that encourage both collaboration and engagement with their students.

Christopher also created and manages the annual Math-On-A-Stick booth at the Minnesota State Fair. Here, families and individuals of all ages and interests can pause to play, explore, engage, and relate to each other through mathematical ideas — often without even realizing they’re doing math.

Final Thoughts

I highly recommend the book How Many? to any parent or educator of young children. In fact, I have personally gifted it to preschools, teachers, and others. It is engaging, beautiful, flexible, immanently re-read-able, and exactly what any reader or group makes of it. It builds mathematical ideas around counting and units in a playful but astonishingly deep way.

How Many? is able to generate multi-generationally as well, including older kids or other family members in exploring the ideas and counting. However, if you’re targeting older kids, you may wish to skip the book, but use the same principles on other images found in the social media hashtags mentioned above (especially #arraychat) and generally in any environment you find yourself in.

How Many? comes in paperback, hardback, and bundled either with or without a teacher’s guide. However, I suggest the hardback book is all you’ll really need. You’ll find yourself reaching for it again and again, discovering each time a little more of its power in engaging and learning both for the children in your life as well as yourself.

Barbra

Barbie has taught math, supported students, and volunteered in classrooms for over 20 years. Her daughter is currently learning math in a Common Core state.

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About Me

Barbie has taught math and worked in student support at community colleges and other postsecondary schools for twenty years. Most of her students were math-insecure. Barbie is also a parent and regular school volunteer, using her math teaching skills alongside local teachers to support and bolster the students and families as much as she can.

Some posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. You can read more about how I choose affiliates and products at my affiliate page.

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