Home Supplies List: Illustrated Math Dictionaries

It’s back to school, and for many parents that means back to helping their child/ren with math homework.

This post features two books parents can add to their back-to-school supply list to help with helping their child/ren with their math homework. While these books don’t fit the definition of a magical math book I’ve been using when selecting books for this blog, I decided to include these resources anyway because:

(1) Many times when I tell fellow parents I write a math book blog, the conversation turns to their struggles and/or worries about helping their child with math homework. I’m often asked for homework resource suggestions; and

(2) I believe having good math resources to consult as a parent is empowering. The internet can lead you down a mathematical rabbit hole leaving you more lost than when you began. Not all math help is created equal. Some websites offer confusing explanations for mathematical ideas or procedures, some are written with a unfriendly tone, and some contain incorrect or imprecise information.   While there are excellent online resources out there (I’ll share some in my next post), I believe being able to pull down a few good resources from your home book shelf (or local library) can make a world of difference when helping your child with their math homework.

The Book(s)

When helping with your child’s math homework, their classroom textbook is often the first resource you consult . Perhaps you read the introduction section for a particular topic or you scan the glossary in an attempt to find the terms in a problem.  However, what if you don’t have access to your child’s textbook (e.g., your child’s class does not use a primary textbook for math class) or what if when you consult the textbook you are left with questions?  The following two books are great resources from Usborne Books & More is a division of Educational Development Corporation (EDC) to help you along in helping your child with their homework.

The first is Usbourne’s First illustrated Dictionary of Math published in 2012.

Written by Kirsteen Rogers, Designed and illustrated by  Karen Tomlins Web Math ed constable Sheila Ebbutt.

The second book is Usbourne’s Illustrated Elementary Math Dictionary published two years earlier in 2010.

Usborne Illustrated Elem Math Dictionary
Written by Kirsteen Rogers and Tori Large, Designed by Karen Tomlins with math consultant  Sheila Ebbutt, editor Carrie Armstrong and consultant Rhonda Bennett


Both of these resources offer clear, detailed displays of a wide variety of math concepts.  Here is an example a page from the second book on Decimals.IMG_0943

With both of these books, you can look up concepts, procedures or terms in the index that you come across while helping your child with their homework. Additionally, you (and your child/ren) can flip through the books and read particular sections that catch your interest.

The Math

Usbourne’s First illustrated Dictionary of Math covers mainly preschool- through 1st grade math. Here are the table of contents.


The second book, Usbourne’s Illustrated Elementary Math Dictionary,  covers from 1st grade to about 5th grade (some 6th grade) math topics. Here are the table of contents.


These two books provide a nicely illustrated, easy-to-follow overview of the main topics of elementary mathematics.   [Here’s a youtube video I came across where you can peak  inside these two helpful resources.]

The Magic (Help)

These books provide a friendly overview in the language and landscape of elementary school mathematics. Vocabulary is an important part of learning mathematics.* True it is not the interesting, magical, wonder-full part, but it is necessary to know the objects and terms we are dealing with in order to engage children in mathematical conversations.

A magical math book is one that inspires “wonder, excitement, and/or delight.” Now I can call these two books magical math books resources for parents, but that is really up to you as a parent to decide. My hope is that they at least help make the time spent doing math homework less frustrating and confusing and more enjoyable (if it isn’t already). [And remember, if you are still struggling to unpack the ideas in your child’s homework, you can always ask your child’s teacher for resources to help you with specific concepts or procedures.]

In a couple of weeks, we share a third math book that can help with math homework. In the meantime, if you are interested in more, we reviewed another magical math help book here. And for those with  kindergartners participating in Letter of the Week, here is a book to add some math to the equation.]


*Definitions in math can vary, so there may be times that a definition in these books are slightly different than those in your child’s textbook . See this post about two different definitions for trapezoid. However, while it is rare that  definitions will differ enough to make a difference, you can always consult your child’s teacher if you have a question about a conflicting definition.


Have a magical math book you’d like share? Please go to the Shared booklist to find out how.  If you’d like to receive these magical math book posts, be sure to follow this blog in the side bar of this page.

Thanks and see you with more #mathbookmagic soon!



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