Connecting Mathematics and Science Through Literature & Storytelling
Curiosity is a key attribute for all which allows us the ability to embrace the unknown, to notice, to wonder, and to learn. Children’s literature and storytelling foster that curiosity as students engage in learning mathematics and science and exploring the connections. Literature conveys information and transports the reader while immersing students in the story as told by the storyteller.
The act of storytelling is one of the most recognized and oldest forms of communication where the “teller” has the ability to teach, influence, inspire, and engage others in learning. Singh and Brownell (2019) posit that storytelling “.. is an art form through which people of all ages are able to connect thoughts and ideas to meaningful emotions”(p. 109). The process of listening to stories provides opportunities to make connections between what is known and what is unknown; to expand one’s thinking and ask “what if”; and to collaborate with others. Together, literature and storytelling and mathematics and science provide powerful opportunities for students to be curious, to engage in creativity and imagination, both of which fuels wondering and noticing.
Connecting mathematics, science, literature and storytelling can help students understand and make sense of their world through making inferences, reading graphs, interpreting data, and developing vocabulary (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM] 2018, 2020a, 2020b), asking questions, analyzing and interpreting data, and planning and carrying out investigations (NGSS Lead States, 2013). It supports both problem solving and problem posing (Wilkerson, Fetterly & Wood, 2015) along with opportunities for modeling situations, often providing important context and applications, constructing explanations for science and mathematics, and allowing students to bring their personal experiences to the story.
One of the most influential reasons for using children’s literature to make connections is the overlap and commonalities of mathematical, scientific, and literacy practices (See Figure 1). These practices attend to important mathematical and scientific practices for students such as making sense of problems and persevering to solve them; modeling with mathematics and using models to help construct explanations; obtaining, synthesizing, and reporting findings clearly and effectively in response to task and purpose, engaging in argument from evidence, and critiquing the reasoning of others (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010; NGSS Lead States, 2013). It is also reflected in the importance of effective teaching practices as advocated by NCTM in Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All (2014) and the National Science Teaching Association’s [NSTA] position statement on Transitioning from Scientific Inquiry to Three-Dimensional Teaching and Learning (NSTA, 2018) by using and connecting representations and phenomenon, posing purposeful questions and supporting a classroom environment that facilitates meaningful discourse, and providing opportunities to examine students’ thinking to support instructional decision making.
Figure 1: Commonalities Among the Practices in Science, Mathematics, and English Language Arts.
Addressing social justice and equity concerns in our communities and environment engage us in understanding and critiquing our world, supporting a global understanding. By connecting children’s literature, mathematics, and science we can view this world through different lenses and approach these important issues through varied entry points. With the use of literature and storytelling we can examine areas of our daily lives, unveil, uncover, and discuss social and environmental issues, and apply mathematics and science in real-world situations that may point students to future careers.
Use of literature can support students in seeing themselves as thinkers and doers of mathematics thus developing a positive mathematical identity that can build their confidence, capacity and willingness to engage in mathematics (NCTM 2018, 2020a, 2020b) and assist them in seeing both society and themselves in science (Royce, 2018). Use of literature allows students to see mathematics and science as a human experience, humanizing the disciplines. With the appropriate literature students can see themselves as scientists and mathematicians where they can explore, understand and critique their world.
Finally, when we consider the use of children’s literature and storytelling from a leadership perspective, Boris and Peterson (2016) note that “part of the work of a leader is to influence - to teach, convince, and inspire those around them” (p. 1). As educators, librarians, media literacy specialists, and content coaches consider strategies and approaches for meeting the many different standards across content areas and how to best teach and inspire student’s learning, the integration of children’s literature and storytelling into the content lends itself to meeting these goals and meeting the work of a leader --to teach, convince, and inspire both students and peers alike.
Overview of the webinar
The core leadership traits and also core traits of integrative STEM include connecting and collaborating. In this webinar, we will examine and discuss the intersection of literature and storytelling with mathematics and science as an incredible opportunity to make connections for students and teachers alike. Through this intersection, we are able to meet content standards, address practices, and examine human endeavors through the journeys of individuals. Benefits of using children’s literature and storytelling to help make connections in mathematics and science include building positive identities, helping students make sense of the world, and providing opportunities to experience joy, wonder, and beauty across the subjects. Join us on January 14th for the webinar and continuing discussion of this topic.
David Barnes is currently part of the senior leadership at NCTM and also the senior mathematics educator on staff. He has been blessed with a wide range of opportunities during his journey as a mathematics educator and is incredibly thankful for all the leaders that have given of their time, energy, and insights. It is through these relationships and partnerships that we find ways to come together, create, and grow. One of the most exciting places that he sees this working is through collaborations in the intersections of math, science, technology, and engineering.
Trena Wilkerson is the current President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and is a mathematics education professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education at Baylor University in Waco, Texas where she teaches both graduate and undergraduate mathematics education courses and conducts professional development and research. She has written articles and book chapters and given presentations related to using literature in the mathematics classroom. She has also lead student camps and teacher workshops related to STEM instruction. She taught high school mathematics for 18 years in Louisiana. She has published in several of NCTM’s journals, Mathematics Teacher: Learning & Teaching PK-12, Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, Mathematics Teacher, Teaching Children Mathematics, and Journal of Research in Mathematics Education, chaired the MTMS Editorial Panel and served on the NCTM Board of Directors. She has received several awards for outstanding teaching and leadership over the years. Through it all she loves teaching and learning mathematics in support of current and future mathematics teachers and leaders! She invites you on this journey! She invites you to connect with her on Twitter @TrenaWilkerson or E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christine Anne Royce is the column author for Teaching Through Trade Books which appears in Science and Children and co-author on a several books related to integrating science and literature. Additional writings include articles and chapters on the topic of the use of trade books in the classroom; the use of digital tools for engaging students; and professional learning. She is a Past President for the National Science Teaching Association. Christine is a professor at Shippensburg University (PA) where she teaches science, STEM, and general education classes for undergraduate and graduate students. She invites you to connect with her on Twitter @caroyce.
Amy Alznauer is the author of The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Story of the Genius Ramanujan and a chapter on the history of pi in 1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change (both from Candlewick Press). She is also the recipient of the Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction and the Christopher Award and the author of two additional titles this year: The Strange Birds of Flannery O'Connor and Flying Paintings (named by the New York Times as one of the Best 25 Children's Books of the year), The Zhou Brothers: A Story of Revolution and Art. Amy teaches math classes at Northwestern University and lives and writes in Chicago. Find Amy and her children’s books at www.amyalz.com.
Latrenda Knighten is currently a District Elementary Mathematics Instructional Specialist in the Office of Curriculum & Instruction and Professional Development for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in Baton Rouge, LA. She has been an educator for more than 30 years during which she has been a classroom teacher, an elementary science specialist, and an elementary mathematics coach. Latrenda is an active member of many professional organizations where she has served in leadership roles for several local, state, and national organizations. She currently serves as the NCSM (National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics) Southern Region 2 Team Leader for Louisiana and Secretary for the Benjamin Banneker Association. Latrenda is also a past member of the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) Board of Directors. She invites you to connect with her on Twitter @Latrendak.
Boris, V., & Peterson, L. (2016). Telling stories: How leaders can influence, teach, and inspire. Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning.
Commonalities Among the Practices in Science, Mathematics, and the English Language Arts. (n.d.). [Graphic]. Retrieved from https://static.nsta.org/ngss/PracticesVennDiagram.pdf
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2014). Principles to actions: Ensuring mathematical success for all. Reston, VA: Author.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2020a). Catalyzing change in early childhood and elementary mathematics: Initiating critical conversations. NCTM.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2020b). Catalyzing change in middle school mathematics: Initiating critical conversations. NCTM.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2018). Catalyzing change in high school mathematics: Initiating critical conversations. NCTM.
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common core state standards for mathematics. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/Math/
National Science Teaching Association. (2018). Transitioning from scientific inquiry to three-dimensional teaching and learning position statement. Retrieved from https://www.nsta.org/nstas-official-positions/transitioning-scientific-inquiry-three-dimensional-teaching-and-learning
NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. The National Academies Press.
Royce, C. A. (2018). The seeing of self and society in science: Literacy integration through biographical narratives. In T. Chih-Che, R. M. R Moran, L. Robertson, K. Keith, H. Hong. (Eds.). Handbook of Research on Science Literacy Integration in Classroom. p. 141-158. DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6364-8.ch010
Singh, S. & Brownell, C. (2019). Math recess: Playful learning in an age of disruption. IMPress.
Wilkerson, T. L., Fetterly, J., & Wood, B. (2015). Problem posing and problem solving: Using YA literature to develop mathematical understandings and make mathematical connections. In J. A. Hayn, J. S. Kaplan, A. Nolan, and Olvey, A. A. (Eds.) Young Adult Nonfiction: Gateway to the Common Core. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Boulder, CO.