Cultivate a lifelong love of math through children’s books.
Big changes are in store as school districts prepare for full implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSS-M). The new standards emphasize learning fewer concepts in greater depth and engaging students in a set of "mathematical practices." Full implementation of K-12 CCSS-M is slated for 2015.
While the Core Standards are helpful, and define what all students are expected to know and what all students must be able to do, they in no way tell teachers how to teach. Teachers will be required more than ever to use the most effective instructional practice—and look for the most efficient and creative means to an end.
“Teachers will need to rely on their creative instincts and abilities to bring out the best in their students,” says Charles Pearson, Coordinator of the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Program for the Marygrove College online Master in the Art of Teaching Program. “Every teacher knows that there is not one strategy or one lesson that works for all learners. Establishing a stronger relationship between children’s literature and mathematics is an excellent way to ensure that you make math more accessible to all elementary school students.”
Much of the primary math curricula used in the U.S. today, like Everyday Mathematics® include suggested readings to coordinate with units. Everyday Mathematics has always stressed multiple representations, communication, tools, mathematical reasoning and making sense of concepts and procedures. While the early elementary programs are often criticized for being light on math fact mastery, teachers who supplement their Everyday Math lessons with rote drill exercises find the combination to be very successful. That’s the art of teaching in action!
Using picture books to supplement math lessons demonstrates the same concept, essentially. Teachers should find what works and not fall prey to exclusively scripted teaching. Just as no two students are alike, no two teachers are alike.
“Teaching math through children’s books is a way to play to many elementary school teachers’ strengths,” Pearson says. “If a teacher is new to teaching math, or not a big fan of the subject, using literature is an effective, authentic way to model an interest in math.”
"When we think of mathematics books, we think of non-fiction, even though mathematics itself is predominantly fiction." (Pappas, 1999)
David L. Haury wrote a synopsis of the benefits of literature and math roughly 10 years ago which still holds true, and is even more widely embraced today. He says that although some of us may feel uncomfortable with the notion that mathematics is fiction, we must realize that the concepts and procedures of mathematics are all constructions of our minds, and products of our attempts to understand our world.
By simply paying greater attention to the mathematics we find in literature, we can help students realize that mathematics— including number-crunching arithmetic— is a spontaneous and natural expression of the human experience, both real and imagined. Making a literature connection can be empowering to some learners who find numbers and numeration difficult or stressful.
Here’s how to choose the best books* to link math with children’s literature:
•Check for Accuracy. Does the book depict math concepts correctly?
•Pay Attention to Visual/Verbal Appeal. Are illustrations and language appealing and engaging to young readers?
•Make Connections. Does the story give context to math lessons and tie to (or expand) young readers’ personal experiences?
•Consider the Audience. Will the story appeal to children from varied backgrounds?
•Look for a “Wow” factor. Is the book exciting to read, and does it present new ideas or different points of view?
You can gain more tips like these at our webinar How to Achieve Picture Perfect Math with Dr. Charles Pearson on Wednesday, June 27. Register now!
*Making informed Choices: Selecting Children’s Trade Books for Mathematics Instruction. Teaching Children Mathematics, v7, n3. Hellwig, Monroe & Jacobs (2000).