06 July 2017
Literature in the Mathematics Classroom
Teaching mathematics effectively is not necessarily an easy thing to do. It takes a lot of understanding, a lot of preparation, a lot of work in the classroom, and a lot of work after class and keeping the students engaged in their tasks. But there is something that we can do to make the job easier: we can motivate our students to want to learn the things we want to teach them. It is not too often that you hear about teachers using literature in math lessons. I am not sure if it is because teachers don’t know how to, or if it is that they never realised how easy and effective it can be. Here we will take a look at how literature can enhance Math lessons, as well as the stories that work well.
How Can Literature Enhance Math Lessons?
According to research, the literature we bring into the Maths classroom can include the many excellent stories that have mathematical themes. But any good story can provide a context for a mathematical problem. In addition to that, students’ literature can:
- provide meaningful context for mathematical content
- review a mathematics concept or specific skill
- promote the development of number sense
- model an interesting problem
- explain a mathematics concept
- promote critical thinking
- increase the level of interest
Maths story book writing project
The lesson plan is designed to use a basic math fact, as a prompt to write and illustrate a math story. A writing activity will serve as a conclusion as well as an assessment for understanding.
TIME REQUIRED FOR LESSON: 3 hour
- paper (drawing and notebook)
- markers, crayons or colored pencils
Below are the instructions I give to students. (Sources from website)
Prepare to write your story:
- Choose a maths topic and math standard(s) from the list of standards to focus your book on.
- Pick the vocabulary words that you’ll use to support the math topic that you’ve chosen. Feel free to use other math vocabulary to support your story. It is important that students reading your book learn the vocabulary and to use the words correctly.
- Choose an appropriate age or grade level for children that should read your book.
- Create a name for your main character(s).
- Choose a setting for your story and a title – time in history, location, etc.
Write your story:
- Write a rough draft of your story.
- Make revisions and word-process the text.
- Divide the book into a minimum of 10 “children book” pages so that you can add illustrations to your story.
- Bibliography and Illustrations: Illustrations can be original (which are preferred) – drawings or photographs that you’ve taken OR un-copyrighted clipart. If you use clipart, make sure to include a page that cites where the pictures came from – include a copy of the picture and a link to the exact page on the Internet with the picture on it at the end of the book. (This page does not count as one of the 10 required pages.)
I see students becoming creative thinkers, language skills improving and science concepts coming to life. I suppose that this synergy between mathematics and literature shouldn’t be too surprising: literature and mathematics have many common themes. Both deal with patterns, and with relationships. In mathematics we have problems. And in literature when you are reading about characters and their conflicts, there are problems to be solved. There is a natural link between the two subjects. But what is most wonderful to me about using literature in mathematics class is that it takes math completely out of the realm of being a finite, boring study of numbers and nomenclature, and into the realm of open-ended creativity and aesthetic appeal. Or, to put it another way, it makes it fun. I believe - and my experience has shown me - that if students have fun learning math they are much more likely to succeed with it and to persist with it. And, besides, I like to have fun, too. I will try it again in the future!
Head of Maths