Theme of the month

Theme of the Month

Join us each month as we focus on a topic of interest to STEM Teacher Leaders with a webinar panel, open discussion, resources and blog post. 

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Join the Discussion: Connecting Mathematics and Science Through Literature and Storytelling

In this facilitated discussion, we will discuss the intersection of literature & storytelling with mathematics & science as an incredible opportunity to make connections for students & teachers alike. We invite your participation!



Thank you to all of the wonderful educators, parents, district leaders, colleagues, etc., who took time to attend the webinar this evening!  We would love to hear more about your favorite picture book that you use to teach math, science, technology, engineering -- or just your favorite picture book and how you use it!  Let's keep the conversation going here and cross post it to the MyNCTM forum as well.

Thu, 01/14/2021 - 8:36 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Christine Anne Royce

Hi Everyone,  I'll be checking in and responding. It was such an honor to be on that panel and a real joy to see the enthusiasm and passion from the participants, who offered so many great ideas in the chat. Looking forward to reading more here!

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 6:30 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Amy Alznauer


I enthusiastically agree with Amy and Christine!  Last week's panel discussion was so much fun and rewarding to "talk" to the participants and panelists about a topic we are all passionate about.  I think the experience put a smile on my face that lasted for several days!  Thanks so much for engaging with us for this discussion and I look forward to learning more from this community.



Tue, 01/19/2021 - 6:51 PM Permalink

Several of the questions that participants had submitted before the webinar on Connecting Mathematics and Science through Literature and Storytelling focused on including/incorporating/locating books that have cultural relevance, stories that showcase a different perspective than your own (across race, religion, sexual orientation, location, etc.), and books that incorporate culturally relevant pedagogy.  While there is a need to ensure any book you select has accurate content and information, it is also extremely important for students to see themselves in the texts.  The following are some recommendations for different lists that provide a variety of texts.


A Mighty Girls 2020 Book List

Children’s Books about Women Scientists

2020 Math Books for Kids (SLJ)

Culturally Responsive Books for Students

Diversify Your Classroom Book Collection

10 Nonfiction Books that Humanize Mathematics

#BlackinSTEM: 17 Nonfiction Books That Spotlight Black Scientists, Thinkers, and Inventors (SLJ)


*The SLJ links are part of their journal.  At the time this is posted, SLJ is providing access to teachers during the pandemic and information should come up online.


Mon, 01/18/2021 - 11:57 AM Permalink
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Thanks for taking the time to share your expertise with us in the webinar.  It was informative and fun.  I'm stealing the tools you used to engage my own students!

I am a storyteller.   That's one of the ways I engage my students.  But they are stories from my life, and not stories from books. For example, when we are learning about heat transfer, I tell them about the time I was at a picnic and got a popsicle stuck on my tongue.  The popsicle was kept on dry ice so it wouldn't melt. Later that same day, I was accidentally burned by the glowing end of a cigarette.  Both are great examples of heat transfer.  I think that those stories are more valuable than I could find in a book.

What are your thoughts?  Is it better if we stick to fiction - that can be reproduced year after year?  A book can be used by many teachers consistently.  If I tell my story it is mine.  I have had other teachers try to use my stories without success.  In one case they said, "This happened to Mrs. Foote."  In another case, they pretended it happened to them.  Both fell flat. 

I think if we have our own stories, we should use them.  But if we don't have stories, we should find them.  Stories are gold.


Mon, 01/18/2021 - 12:52 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Nancy Foote

Wow, what a great question. I feel like the answer is both, both are better. Your own stories are essential and form the real heart of storytelling. And I doubt you could stop telling them if you tried. But you are right, you cannot easily pass those personal stories on to someone else to tell. Books are that intersection, or at least one of them, making the private story public and shareable. But even then, when books are read aloud and read effectively, so much of the reader comes into play (the accents they might use, the emphasis they assign, the stories of their own they weave in).

I agree with your last line entirely: "if we don't have stories, we should find them.  Stories are gold."

Reading stories, telling your own stories, all create a rich tapestry of stories and build a rich world of references, language, humor, metaphors that strengthen the community of your classroom.

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 6:44 PM Permalink
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I am part of a small group of STEM teachers that is organizing a virtual STEM conference in April. We had a very successful virtual conference last spring, Elementary STEM CON 20, that had over 5000 teacher participants. We have just last week launched the registration for our next conference that will be much larger with more sessions for secondary and special education. Many of the sessions and workshops focus on integration of STEM into other subjects.  I am doing two of the sessions on literature and STEM integration. In addition, we have some amazing author guests, scientists, and engineers who will be part of panel discussion each day of the conference. We also have professional development hours available through several universities. You can check out STEM CON and Beyond  at

Wendy Severin Goldfein

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 1:07 PM Permalink
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I have used excerpts from the following books in my high school biology classes:

Microbe Hunters, by Paul deKruif (originally published in 1926); Chapter 1 on Leeuwenhoek's discovery of microbes and his crafting of magnifying lenses captivated my sophomores; we also used this reading to explore the characteristics of successful scientists.

T. rex and the Craters of Doom, by Walter Alvarez (1997); a great adventure and scientific detective story about the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs and many other species, told by the detective himself. Shows the complexity of science in action and how scientific knowledge is advanced. Another book that fits in this category is A Fish Caught in Time, by Samantha Weinberg (2000).

Rosalind Franklin and DNA, by Anne Sayre (1975). An account of the contributions of Franklin to the discovery of the DNA helix structure, told from her perspective. I used this to balance the perspective of James Watson, after showing "Life Story," aka "Race for the Double Helix," a BBC production from 1987 [starring Jeff Goldblum and based on Watson's bestseller The Double Helix (1968)] in class. Another thrilling tale of how science works, told by the participants and their biographers, and another opportunity to explore the characteristics of successful scientists and equity themes.

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy (1995). New York Times bestseller; I had juniors and seniors in a second-year biology elective course read passages from this book when we were studying animal behavior and the techniques used by scientists to study animal behavior. This generated great discussions about Western science (and other) perspectives on other species.


Birgit Musheno


Mon, 01/18/2021 - 6:04 PM Permalink

Have you read Deadly by Julie Chibarro? It's historical fiction but the young female character who works with George Soper as a "secretary" helps to track down Mary Mallon (Typhoid Mary) since she accompanies him from location to location to keep notes.  Also, Fever Year by Don Brown is a graphic novel that I used with my preservice teachers this semester-- great way to bring in discipline based literacy along with current events when they were asked to do comparisons.

I'm not familiar with When Elephants Week and will need to put that on my list!



Mon, 01/18/2021 - 8:27 PM Permalink
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I will have to admit even though I am a science geek, I found myself somewhat fascinated by the use of books to make mathematics meaninginful. I was an okay math student but iI was not totally enamored of learning in mathematics  because it was always taught in isolation and I couldn't find the purpose and/or the relavance sometimes.  The discussion the other night piqued my interest to read some of the mentioned books and reflecting on them in the context of the practice of Mathematical and Computational Thinking.




Tue, 01/19/2021 - 12:07 PM Permalink


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.  You hit the nail on the head! Many of our students have had and are currently having experiences similar to yours - learning math in isolation and without meaning or a related context. Bringing children's literature into the mathematics classroom can help students with sense making, promote mathematical thinking, encourage problem posing, and help some students make connections in mathematics. Keep us posted on your journey!

Tue, 01/19/2021 - 7:12 PM Permalink
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Thanks so much for an informative and passionate presentation! I like this video that shows the use of read alouds as entry point into the content-building background knowledge.(23) Interactive Read-Alouds with Trade Books - YouTube.  In middle school I used "There's a Hair in my Dirt" by Gary Lawson and Dr. Suess' "The Lorax."  When I taught high school I used "Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters" by Matt Ridley.

Tue, 01/19/2021 - 4:56 PM Permalink
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We've talked a lot about stories coming through books, but Nancy Foote made a wonderful point above about oral stories and telling our own stories. She also wisely noted that sometimes other people can't tell our stories, or can't tell them in the way that we can. Anyway all of this made me think about math storytellers who work in an oral mode. One of my very favorites is Vi Hart. If you've never come across her work check out her youtube channel. This short one Infinity Elephants will give you the idea. I often use it with my calculus students.

Tue, 01/19/2021 - 10:27 PM Permalink
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Back in the 1990's (I am old), I worked on the University of Pittsburgh's chemistry van program. The program took a demo show to schools in the area. In a single show, the demo team would go through a set of demos that would span most of the main topics in an intro chem course ... and yet do so in a way that would run a cohesive thread through these demos. At around the same time, I read Atkin's book Atoms, Electrons and Change. In a similar manner, his book took a set of very disparate chemistry concepts and integrated them through the storyline of a carbon atom traveling through the Earth system. I was hooked -- hooked on a content storyline as a better way to design a curriculum than by some pre-ordained topic sequence. I revamped all of the high school chemistry courses to follow a storyline through the entire curriculum -- e.g. using the framing device of the Greek Four Element model (earth, fire, water, air) in my introductory chemistry course.

Fast forward to my current work as a science teacher educator. I push the whole storyline approach to my pre-service teachers and show them models from my own curriculum design. Thankfully, there are supporting resources readily available (e.g. Next Generation Science Storylines). The problem is, that my pre-service teachers need continued support in using this approach -- because it runs against the grain of their own personal experiences -- when they become in-service teachers. This seems to be a place where STEM teacher leadership can come into play. Can we find and support a cadre of STEM teachers who believe in and support the use of storylines and literature in STEM classes so that they can encourage and provide guidance to other teachers who want to try this approach but either lack the expertise or confidence to do so?

It seems like a project like STEM TLNet is the perfect platform / mechanism for undertaking such an effort. Given the research by people like Paul Zak (see representative link) around the power of storytelling for learning, and given the lack of traditional STEM curricula built around storylines, an effort of this nature would need a group like STEM TLNet to have any hope of having a real impact.

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 1:02 PM Permalink
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My job revolves around creating outdoor program for K-12 students (aligned with State standards) and community programs (birding, maple sugaring, summer camps, etc.). 

At this time, we have been working through our Michigan Pioneer program. We have a log house, log barn and sugar shack to immerse the learners in the daily lives of a pioneer family. 

As non-native, white females my colleagues and I have really honed in on creating programs through diverse lenses, since our audience is diverse and our Michigan history is highlighted by "good things" the white men have done.

The books we are considering using to adapt the program are:

Here is a search of Native American Authors and Illustrators: Picture Books

Thu, 01/21/2021 - 9:48 AM Permalink
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I was just about to tell you to check out Cynthia Leitich Smith, who is Native American herself, and wrote this post on resources on Native American books, but then I realized that is exactly the link you provided above! What great work you are doing. I'd love to visit your log house and sugar shack with my kids.

Cynthia is amazing, and a wonderfully supportive member of the children's book world. So I'll just add this. If you go to the search window on her blog and type in "native voices" you will get a series of blog posts interviewing Native American authors and focusing on their books and creations.



Thu, 01/21/2021 - 11:45 AM Permalink
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In reply to by Amy Alznauer

Yes! We are Water Protectors is one of my personal favorite books of this year. We used this to start our water quality and conservation unit. Along with hearing the story of water walks happening in our state. Finished the lesson by asking students about their own reasons to protect and conserve water that connect to their lives.



Thu, 01/21/2021 - 2:59 PM Permalink
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In reply to by Amy Alznauer

We are on the same page, Friend Amy. Our E.L. Johnson Nature Center has collaborated with our local library, Bloomfield Township Library, to create a StoryWalk along our trails. We Are Water Protectors will be a book in our StoryWalk that we have already chosen for the month of September. 

When the soil thaws, our StoryWalk will be a permanent part of our self-guided community programs, with sponsorship by Bloomfield Township Library, the Jerry Cohen Foundation and the Women's National Farm & Garden Association (Bloomfield Hills Branch).

Fri, 01/22/2021 - 10:22 AM Permalink
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In reply to by Amy Alznauer

Thank YOU, Amy, for the additional resource to dive into Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog. It is important that we let people tell their story and the story of their ancestors. I like to collaborate with others on our programming; adding that additional lens is SO IMPORTANT.

This would be helpful short term as we are doing programming virtually at this time.

Fri, 01/22/2021 - 10:11 AM Permalink
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We have a growing collection of books and picture books we use on our website -

We need to add a ton more we use but some of our favorites are:

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds which we then use with lessons on the REAL primary colors (which are not red, yellow, and blue) and have students eventually paint a Rainbow-ish.

Everything by Andrea Beaty - Rosie Revere, Engineer; Iggy Peck, Architect; Ada Twist, Scientist; Sophia Valdez, Future Prez. These are all also beautifully translated into Spanish.

And don't forget classics likes Caps for Sale (also available in Spanish) by Esphyr Slobodkina.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (great social emotional lesson)

Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds (great for engineering and biomimicry connection at the end)

Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin (great for engineering design process)

Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen

Sun, Earth, Moon books by Stacy McAnulty

and on and on...

Fri, 01/22/2021 - 11:52 AM Permalink

I love Those Darn Squirrels! I enjoy watching them try  to get at the bird feeder on my deck. In the past I have taken photos of those darn squirrels trying to get food from the feeder  and brought that in to the classroom tto talk about  prior to sharing the book. We started to brainstorm our ideas for solutions.  Then we read the book and set to work designing bird proff feeders!

Another book I wanted to share is Marjory Saves the Everglades .

Here is an author chat about the book.marjory Saves the Everglades


Fri, 01/22/2021 - 12:51 PM Permalink
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Thanks, it is engaging in facts. Most children are not able to take primary English Language courses. The STEM has improved fundamental compositions together with students’ excitable evaluations.  It can be supported by shifting elements skillfully and makes knowledge. Wow! Narrative books tell students about formative and summative assessments while are creating materials in similarly exciting traditional or virtual books. The students can figure out crafts and arts relating to the book topics and new vocabulary levels. Thanks for sharing yesterday's amazingness! :)


Fri, 01/22/2021 - 9:47 PM Permalink
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What a cool thread with so many awesome books and resources! I'm excited to dig in :)

I wanted to share that some of our best experiences in teaching and learning high school science have been connecting lyrical or creative non-fiction essays to the work we do -- particularly on climate change, which is so fraught and so politicized and so, so sad.

When I first sat our Sunday New York Times on the table and saw the NYT Mag's cover story was about soon-to-be-extinct white rhinos, I was less than excited to read it. It was going to be so, so sad!!

But Sam Anderson's essay has a beautiful, hopeful, lyrical middle, about how love has a range, that shook me to my core. Below is part of it so you can see why I was surprised and delighted - the full text is at the NYT website at

:) Kirstin

Text excerpt from "The Last Two Northern White Rhinos On Earth" - to find it accessibly, go to the link earlier in the post and search for "love has a range"



Tue, 02/02/2021 - 10:00 AM Permalink
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