Tally O’Malley

Written by Stuart Murphy & Illustrated by Cynthia Jabar

FEATURED SKILL: (Mathstart Level 2), Tallying

NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics)Standards: Communication, Numbers & Operations, Problem Solving

The O’Malleys are driving to the beach for vacation. Eric, Bridget, and little Nell are getting bored in the back seat, so Mom suggests a Tally game. They decide to count cars on the highway. Each of the kids picks a color—silver for Eric, blue for Bridget, and red, as always, for Nell—while Mom sets the timer. Eric trounces the competition and gets to wear the Shamrock medal. And his sister dubs him “Tally O’Malley!” But will he be able to hang on to the title when they tally t-shirt colors while waiting in line for ice cream, or tally train cars? Tally marks are a useful tool for children to keep track as they count, and for data collection. Grouping tally marks also reinforces counting by fives.

From Teaching Children Mathematics (NCTM)

When I first read this book, it reminded me of an activity I do with my students: I put a penny under one of twenty cups that are numbered 1 – 20. If the children can determine which cup I placed the penny under in four guesses or less, they all get a treat. This book provided us with a great lead-in to this fun activity. It also helped my students make logical guesses because they are used available information and therefore asked better questions.

The author provides suggestions on how to read the book to get students involved with the story as well as several follow-up activities that reinforce the mathematics concepts of “greater than” and “less than.” As a resource mathematics teacher of grades 2-5, I found this book to be one that all grade levels enjoyed. I vary the follow-up activities to accommodate various levels.

—Barbara Hosey, Beauvoir Elementary School, Biloxi School District, Biloxi, MS

About The Author

Stuart J. Murphy is a visual learning specialist. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, he has a strong background in design and art direction. He also has extensive experience in the world of educational publishing. Drawing on all these talents, Stuart J. Murphy brings a unique perspective to the MathStart series. In MathStart books, pictures do more than tell stories; they teach math.

The Greatest Gymnast of All

Written by Stuart Murphy & Illustrated by Cynthia Jabar

FEATURED SKILL: Level 1, Opposites

NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) Standards: Communication, Geometry

There is simply no stopping "Zipping, Zooming Zoe," who just happens to be the "Greatest Gymnast of All." She's up, then down, on the mat, then off, over the hoop, then under. Recognizing opposites helps children develop the spatial sense necessary for the development of geometry concepts.

DC Standard 4.4, Geometry and Spatial Sense: Children will begin to demonstrate an understanding of shape, size, position, direction, and movement, and they will describe and classify real objects by shape. 4.4.5: Describe, name, and interpret position in space; understand and useAbout The Author



This title in the MathStart series presents spunky, redheaded Zoe performing in a gymnastics competition. As she executes each of the movements in her routine, the rhyming text describes a variety of opposites. These concepts of opposites are visually captured in the energetic illustrations. Rich and brightly colored, whimsical illustrations portray Zoe's high-spirited enthusiasm asshe jumps inside and outside, flips high and low, swings on and off, and cartwheels backward and forward. Adults and children will enjoy engaging in the various activities, which are listed at the end of this work. This concept book is a fun-filled way to introduce young children to the important world of opposites.  —April Judge, Used with the permission of Copyright. All rights reserved.

Game Time!

Written by Stuart Murphy & Illustrated by Cynthia Jabar


NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics)Standards: Communication, Measurement

Last year, the Falcons were the soccer league champs. Can the Huskies beat them this year? The big game is only seven days away—just one week. Then it’s only one day away—24 hours. Then it’s only an hour away—60 minutes. At first the Falcons come on strong, scoring during the first 15-minute quarter. Will the Huskies catch up by the half, 30 minutes into the game? It’s a nail-biter, right down to the last second! The relationships between the various units of time—seconds, minutes, hours, days, and weeks—and how clocks and calendars represent these units are important concepts for children to understand.



Grade 2-3-In one week, two girls’ soccer teams will test their skills during the championship game. Told from the Huskies’s point of view, the story builds tension as the big day approaches. During the game, the Falcons appear to be winning but, with nine seconds to go, the Huskies score. Designed to teach time measurement, the book introduces weeks and hours. The match lends itself to an explanation of quarter hours, which coincide with the periods of play. The scoreboard, shown on almost every page, has a countdown while an analog clock on the refreshment stand gives the time of day. The action is fast paced, and the soft-colored, pencil-and-watercolor cartoons pack plenty of action. The book concludes with an excellent list of time-study activities. Pair this with Teddy Slater’s Just a Minute (Scholastic, 1996) to establish the feeling of time’s passage.
Lynda Ritterman, Atco Elementary School, NJ

The Sundae Scoop

Written by Stuart Murphy & Illustrated by Cynthia Jabar

FEATURED SKILL: Level 2, Combinations

NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics)Standards: Algebra, Connections, Data Analysis

Winnie, the nice lady in charge of the cafeteria, has a stupendous idea for the school picnic: "Let's make sundaes!" Lauren, James, and Emily help out and are amazed by how many different kinds of sundaes you can make with just two ice-cream flavors, two sauces, and two types of toppings. But when supplies run low, the number of combinations changes. Determining how many different combinations can be made from given sets of items is an important first step in understanding probability.



More math that kids-and not a few adults-can relate to, from the master of math concepts. Here he tackles combinations via a story of kids making sundaes at a school picnic. First the kids discuss the number of ice creams, sauces, and toppings they will use, drawing a chart to illustrate the possibilities aptly rendered in the playful pastel, disheveled artwork that looks just like a sundae. Murphy plays the concept like a slide trombone: Up, up the number of potential combinations mount, and then, as the kids commence to dish out the goods at the picnic, the options start to drop down, down as the sprinkles tip over and the chocolate ice cream melts and the caramel gets spilled. The chill that the words "combinational analysis" send through the bones is chased away by the clarity of Murphy's diagramming, flow charts that show just how many different sundaes might be ordered. As always in the MathStart series, Murphy supplies a number of activity ideas that extend and embellish upon the concepts being introduced as well as a short bibliography. Be prepared to head for the freezer.

Used with permission from Kirkus Reviews.  All rights reserved.


The latest addition to the MathStart series presents the concept of combinations in a story about a group of children who host and ice cream booth at their school picnic. With two flavors of ice cream, two sauces, and two choices of toppings, the children are surprised that eight different sundaes are available. But when Lauren spills all the sprinkles, the group is down to four possibilities. Then James spills the caramel sauce, and only two sundae choices remain. Murphy easily folds the math concepts into a lively story that will capture young readers, and Jabar reinforces the lesson with colorful, whimsical drawings of delectable ice cream scoops. The book closes with follow-up activities that will be useful for parents and teachers who want to encourage children to create stories using this concept.  —Helen Rosenberg,Used with permission from Booklist.


You can visit Stuart Murphy's MATHSTART website here.