World Book Day

From a mathematical point of view

There is no reason why World Book Day can't be celebrated in Maths lessons. Join in the fun, whether you are dressed as a character from a book or not. Encourage pupils to celebrate authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) enjoying a good read.

Here some ideas to help you appreciate books from a mathematical point of view.


Let's begin with a question about choosing books:

It is time for Jasmin to pack for her holiday in the countryside. She loves to read while she is on holiday but only has a limited amount of space for books in her bag.

Jasmin has six books to choose from and will pack only two of them. In how many different ways can she choose the two books? In other words what are all the possibilities for the two books she chooses?

Max is staying at home but also has six books. He arranges them on his book shelf in a different order each day. For how many days can he do this?

Q. Why did the Maths textbook look so sad?

A. Because it had so many problems and the chemistry book had all the solutions.

The most popular book-related Starter of the Day is called Bookworm. It's a problem with a twist in the tale which most people (teachers included) get wrong on their first attempt. It's one of those puzzles that provides a 'Eureka!' moment when the secret is revealed.

Bookworm Starter

Click the image above to try the Bookworm lesson Starter for yourself.

How many pages does a book have if it took 2748 digits to make all of its page numbers?

What is your reading speed in words per minute? Design an activity to find out.

How long would it take you to read these books?

  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien – 95,356 words
  • Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson – 66,950 words
  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis – 38,421 words
  • War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy – 561,304 words
  • The entire Harry Potter series – 1,084,170 words

Conduct a survey. Analyse then present the results.
Here are some ideas for the questions that pupils can adapt:

Book Week Survey
Name: Age in years:
Favourite genre:
  • Young Adult Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Dystopian
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Romance
  • Paranormal
  • Contemporary
  • Graphic Novels
  • Historical Fiction
How long do you spend reading books each week?
  • Less than 30 minutes
  • Between 30 minutes and an hour
  • Between one and two hours
  • Between two and three hours
  • Over three hours
Favourite character from a book:
Favourite film made from a book:
Title of the book you read most recently:
I believe children should spend less time using technology and more time reading books:
Strongly DisagreeStrongly Agree
Thank you

Which questions will be difficult to analyse based on the answers provided?

Split the class into four groups to play this game. The groups are named North, South, East and West.

Cover to Cover: Guess to Impress!

Your teacher will flick through a book and you then estimate how many numbered pages are in the book


Actual number
Teacher flicking through book

Collect the agreed estimates from the four groups than reveal the actual number.
The group closest gets 3 points. The next closest estimate earns 2 points and the third closest gets one point.

The group with the most points after ten books have been flicked is the Book Week Estimating Champion!

If you read for 10 minutes every day how many books would you consume in a year?

A great list if books for children can be fount on the Nrich website. They are grouped into three different categories: history of Mathematics, recreational Mathematics and thinking mathematically.

Did you know that there are many mathematical books freely available online for you to read in your browser? Start you browsing at Google Books or look at the extensive collection of links on Colleen's website Mathematics, Learning and Technology.

Now here are some great books for you to enjoy:

Kindle Lesson Starters Book

Starters Of The Day 1

This book provides an alternative was to access the popular Transum Mathematics ‘Starters of the Day’ which have been used by teachers all over the world to provide an interesting, engaging and varied start to mathematics lessons. In the pages of this book you will find screen shots of the first hundred lesson starters along with the answers (answers for the online versions are only available to Transum subscribers).

Kindle version on Amazon

Reflect, Expect, Check, Explain

In this book, Craig Barton, maths teacher and best-selling author of 'How I wish I'd taught maths' (see below), offers an approach to help all our students think mathematically. It requires the careful sequencing of questions and examples, the role of the teacher, and the mathematical behaviour of our students. It has transformed his teaching.

Drawing upon research into the Self-Explanation Effect, the Hypercorrection Effect and Variation Theory, together with two years of developing this approach with teachers and students around the world, Craig describes exactly what this looks like in the classroom.

But be warned: not everyone agrees. Indeed, it is this very approach that led to Craig being labelled as 'the most dangerous and clueless man in maths education'. If that is not a recommendation to keep reading, I don't know what is. more...

Craig's New Book
Numbers and the Making of Us

Numbers and the Making of Us

I initially heard this book described on the Grammar Girl podcast and immediately went to find out more about it. I now have it on my Christmas present wish list and am looking forward to receiving a copy (hint!).

"Caleb Everett provides a fascinating account of the development of human numeracy, from innate abilities to the complexities of agricultural and trading societies, all viewed against the general background of human cultural evolution. He successfully draws together insights from linguistics, cognitive psychology, anthropology, and archaeology in a way that is accessible to the general reader as well as to specialists." more...

Hello World

You are buying a (driverless) car. One vehicle is programmed to save as many lives as possible in a collision. Another promises to prioritize the lives of its passengers. Which do you choose?

Welcome to the age of the algorithm, the story of a not-too-distant future where machines rule supreme, making important decisions – in healthcare, transport, finance, security, what we watch, where we go even who we send to prison. So how much should we rely on them? What kind of future do we want?

Hannah Fry takes us on a tour of the good, the bad and the downright ugly of the algorithms that surround us. In Hello World she lifts the lid on their inner workings, demonstrates their power, exposes their limitations, and examines whether they really are an improvement on the humans they are replacing. more...

How Not To Be Wrong

The maths we learn in school can seem like an abstract set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In fact, Jordan Ellenberg shows us, maths touches on everything we do, and a little mathematical knowledge reveals the hidden structures that lie beneath the world's messy and chaotic surface. In How Not to be Wrong, Ellenberg explores the mathematician's method of analyzing life, from the everyday to the cosmic, showing us which numbers to defend, which ones to ignore, and when to change the equation entirely. Along the way, he explains calculus in a single page, describes Gödel's theorem using only one-syllable words, and reveals how early you actually need to get to the airport.

What more could the inquisitive adult want for a Christmas or birthday present? This book makes a cosy, interesting read in front of the fire or when on the beach. more...

GCSE Revision and Practice

Whatever exam board you use for GCSE Mathematics, this book by David Rayner remains an all-round winner. With this latest edition presented in full colour and completely updated for the new GCSE(9-1) specifications, this uniquely effective text continues to increase your chance of obtaining a good grade.

This book is targeted at the Higher tier GCSE, and provides a wealth of practice with careful progression, alongside substantial revision support for the new-style grading and exam questions. With all the new topics included, and a dedicated section on using and applying mathematics, this unique resource can be used either as a course book over two or three years or as a revision text in the run-up to exams. more...

The Craig Barton Book

How I Wish I'd Taught Maths

Craig Barton must surely be the voice of Mathematics teachers in the UK. His wonderful podcasts interviewing the industry experts have culminated in this wonderful book. As Craig says: "I genuinely believe I have never taught mathematics better, and my students have never learned more. I just wish I had known all of this twelve years ago..." more...

"How I wish I’d taught maths' is an extraordinary and important book. Part guide to research, part memoir, part survival handbook, it’s a wonderfully accessible guide to the latest research on teaching mathematics, presented in a disarmingly honest and readable way. I know of no other book that presents as much usable research evidence on the dos and don’ts of mathematics teaching in such a clear and practical way. No matter how long you have been doing it, if you teach mathematics—from primary school to university—this book is for you." Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment, UCL.

The Best Puzzle Book (in my opinion)

I received this book as a Christmas present and was most impressed with the range and depth of the content.

"What you won’t find in this book is all the ‘usual suspects’ – there are no crosswords or sudoku, for example. There are countless examples of these available already, including in almost every newspaper on sale the very day you read this. What you’ll find here instead is a huge range of material, all designed to confuse, perplex and – hopefully – delight you. So if you’re looking for something brand new, or so old it’s new all over again, then this is the book for you!" more...

The Penguin Book of Puzzles
Can You Solve My Problems

The Second Best Puzzle Book (in my opinion)

I also received this book as a present and was similarly impressed with the range and depth of the content and the amount of detail in the answer section.

"The bestselling author of Alex's Adventures in Numberland tells the story of the puzzle through 125 of the world's best brainteasers. Packed with eye-opening anecdotes, brain-stretching ideas and thoroughly addictive puzzles Can You Solve My Problems? will leave you wonderstruck." more...

A Compendium Of Mathematical Methods

How many different methods do you know to solve simultaneous equations? To multiply decimals? To find the nth term of a sequence?

A Compendium of Mathematical Methods brings together over one hundred different approaches from classrooms all over the world, giving curious mathematicians the opportunity to explore fascinating methods that they've never before encountered.

If you teach mathematics to any age group in any country, you are guaranteed to learn lots of new things from this delightful book. It will deepen your subject knowledge and enhance your teaching, whatever your existing level of expertise. It will inspire you to explore new approaches with your pupils and provide valuable guidance on explanations and misconceptions. more...

A Compendium Of 	Mathematical Methods

Math with Bad Drawings

I had been tutoring the wonderful Betsy for five years. When the day came for our last ever session together before the end of her Year 13, I received this beautiful book as a gift of appreciation.

This a very readable book by Ben Orlin. I'm really enjoying the humour in the writing and the drawings are great.

Ben Orlin answers maths' three big questions: Why do I need to learn this? When am I ever going to use it? Why is it so hard? The answers come in various forms-cartoons, drawings, jokes, and the stories and insights of an empathetic teacher who believes that mathematics should belong to everyone. more...

Click the images above to see all the details of these book ideas and to buy them online.

Your access to the majority of the Transum resources continues to be free but you can help support the continued growth of the website by doing your Amazon shopping using the links on this page.

The solutions to this and other Transum puzzles, exercises and activities are available here when you are signed in to your Transum subscription account. If you do not yet have an account and you are a teacher, tutor or parent you can apply for one by completing the form on the Sign Up page.

A Transum subscription also gives you access to the 'Class Admin' student management system, downloadable worksheets, many more teaching resources and opens up ad-free access to the Transum website for you and your pupils.

World Book Day normally takes place on the first Thursday in March:

7 March 2024

6 March 2025

5 March 2026

4 March 2027

2 March 2028

1 March 2029

7 March 2030

Milena Lee, Twitter

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Do you have any comments? It is always useful to receive feedback and helps make this free resource even more useful for those learning Mathematics anywhere in the world. Click here to enter your comments.


©1997-2024 WWW.TRANSUM.ORG