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Review – Maths-focused picturebooks, illustrated by Tony Neal

  • Review – Maths-focused picturebooks, illustrated by Tony Neal

At a glance

  • A set of four fun reading books with a maths focus
  • Entertaining and engaging contexts to explore maths concepts 
  • Features fun activities to explore key concepts further
  • Includes tips for parents on how to share with their child  
  • Available as an ebook
  • £6.99 per title  

Introducing children to maths concepts through literacy using a picture book format is a great way to involve and engage them in reading, maths discourse and purposeful maths activities. 

They encourage pupils to solve real-life problems, thinking about how they could help the characters in the story and provide a rich environment for thinking in more depth about different areas of maths.

Oxford University Press has come up trumps with a new collection of books, illustrated by Tony Neal, using fun and friendly animals to teach children about height, weight, position and capacity. 

The four titles available are ‘Hop On Top, Mouse!’, ‘Too Heavy, Elephant!’, ‘Take A Leap, Sheep!’ and ‘Squeeze In, Squirrel!’, with topics and vocabulary based on the Early Years Foundation Stage framework for maths. 

What the books do is provide a highly amusing context that will hook children’s attention and get them talking about maths and act as a springboard for getting hands-on. 

Each title keeps it simple by focusing on one key concept and uses animal characters to bring a problem to life.

This is cleverly done because the stories arrest readers’ interest, sustains it and then leads them into a variety of meaningful activities based on the topic covered. 

The extension ideas included at the end of each story are also perfect for sharing with families to encourage mathematical thinking at home.

For example, in one story an elephant is too heavy to play with a mouse on the seesaw. How can their friends help?

In another story, some animals all want to go on the Ferris wheel but there’s a fence in the way. If the sheep can’t climb over it, go under it or fit through it, what’s the solution? 

Each title has gorgeous illustrations full of colour, energy and fun that will appeal to everyone and promote a lot of discussion and provide rich opportunities to build not only literacy skills, but also maths understanding. 

With maths concepts woven into the pictures and storylines, these books promote children’s mathematical thinking and introduce foundational maths concepts in an effortless way.

Asking questions and making observations about the maths found in the picture books readily supports children’s curiosity and enjoyment of maths.

All the books serve as brilliant entry points into exploring maths concepts in different ways and so give children brilliant opportunities to relate their experiences to the characters in the books.

They also help children ask plenty of questions that go beyond the stories and so act as important stepping stones in conceptual understanding.


These are enjoyable and intellectual adventures for children to get excited about that will spark great conversations and maths moments. 

Teaching maths and fostering the love for the subject through picture book storytelling can be a powerful strategy and OUP have come up trumps with this brilliant collection.

They allow children to become emotionally invested in what they read and become fully immersed in the context in which maths topics are meaningfully embedded in and concepts suddenly become alive.

These are well-written, superbly illustrated, creative and highly effective which will give children exciting opportunities to develop both mathematical and linguistic abilities in parallel.

The verdict

  • Allows children to explore maths concepts in a fun and friendly context
  • Promotes maths talk and conceptual understanding
  • Supports children in becoming confident young mathematicians
  • Humorous illustrations full of laughs and learning
  • Makes maths more accessible and enjoyable  
  • Can be used to explore common maths misconceptions  

Upgrade if…

You are looking for ways to promote maths moments in children, cultivate their curiosity and feed positive attitudes and mathematical wellbeing.