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Review of King Joe math storybooks

King Joe is a series of six math storybooks for 1st-4th grades, designed to introduce, teach, and reinforce math vocabulary. The six books cover subjects of

  • Data Analysis, Statistics & Probability
  • Fractions
  • Geometry & Spatial Sense
  • Measurement
  • Number Sense & Operations
  • Problem Solving

Each of the books is near 100 pages long (some more, some less) and comes with a set of flashcards that have the math words on one side, and on the other, explanatory pictures from the story.

I got to see two books from the series: King Joe's Garden and King Joe Goes to the Fair.

In King Joe's Garden, King Joe wants to know if a fellow king Fernando might have a better garden than his. A group of friends plans a visit to king Fernando's castle, sending King Joe to "spy out" which vegetables/fruits are growing in the garden. Ed the Exercise Expert makes an exercising schedule for King Joe with line plots so he'll be in shape to climb the wall, the king and Leonardo play games all night, making a Venn diagram, a pie graph, and so on. It's quite an amusing story; I had to smile at King Joe's or Leonardo's silly endeavors and remarks.

King Joe Goes to the Fair finds King Joe and his friends spending a day at the fair playing different games, which just happen to be geometrically oriented. They enter a house of mirrors and learn about flips, they see shows and learn about symmetry, angles, perpedicular lines, and the princesses talk about the radius of the Ferris wheel.

The purpose of the books is to help children learn math vocabulary – words children don't encounter often and thus may have difficulty in learning. It's all wrapped up in a delightful, engaging story. These books don't just show pictures with explanations of the words. The whole idea is that you remember an interesting story much better than plain words without a context.

Each book has a definite plot, the main characters have their own personality, the stories are amusing and are illustrated with full-color pictures on every page, so it's no wonder children are captivated!

Many of the math words are such high level that they are difficult for even adults to remember. But whether it's a line plot about King Joe's exercise schedule, a Venn diagram of King Joe's and Leonardo's favorite foods, or a cloud shaped like a trapezoid, it can truly fix those words into a child's mind. Or, think about the book King Joe Goes to the Fair which is about geometry. How many adults do you think remember such complex words as congruent, counterclockwise, tangram, trapezoid, hexagon, or a vertical line segment? Yet all those are easily accesible to children when King Joe and his friends play games at the fair.

King Joe books and the educational idea in them are definitely of professional quality and can lead to very good learning results. The only downside of this is the price – the books cost between $35 and $40 each. Maybe there are sharing possibilities between families, or you can consider reselling the books to recover some of the cost. They are definitely a great buy for schools, public libraries, home school co-ops or associations. Maybe you can ask your local library to invest in them!

Also, there is one situation, I think, where King Joe could really help. If your child has lost interest in math so that it's more of a chore now than fun, consider taking a little break from your usual math book and reading some King Joe books. That could get the spark back.

King Joe books. Price: $49.99 per book & flashcards. See the website for more example pages and current pricing.

Review by Maria Miller