Literature That Will Enrich Mathematics

Embracing literature to enhance mathematics instruction in the classroom or at home benefits students by providing a richer and more meaningful perspective of mathematics. Connecting children’s literature with mathematics is an effective avenue for promoting problem solving, communicating in mathematics, and make connections between the mathematics needed in multiple disciplines. The paper “Using Children’s Literature to Teach Mathematics” presented on The Quantile® Framework for Mathematics site offers teachers and parents helpful suggestions for identifying literature that will support mathematics instruction and engage students.

An appropriate book to enhance an effective mathematics lesson should have an authentic context that includes real-life experiences, multi-cultural components, and enjoyable plots that unite mathematics and literacy. A report titled “Making Informed Choices: Selecting Children’s Trade Books for Mathematics Instruction” by S. J. Hellwig, Eula E. Monroe, and James S. Jacobs (2000) offers suggestions for identifying books that will support instruction and create meaningful and explicit connections to engage students. The article offers pointers for choosing appropriate children’s literature with mathematics topics. An appropriate book should:

  • represent mathematics and other information accurately and depict mathematics relationships correctly.
  • presents factual information, uses terminology appropriately, and portrays mathematical principles accurately.
  • includes a format and presentation that are visually and verbally appealing.
  • offers interest and pleasure without overpowering the text with mathematical processes and terminology.
  • provides a context for learners to make meaningful connections between mathematics and personal experiences.
  • easily connects the mathematical process or experience to the resolution of the story.
  • presents concepts in a way that appeals to a range of audiences and abilities.
  • appeals to a variety of interests, cultures, and/or experiences.
  • offers layers of richness beyond the predictable or expected and presents exciting new views or ideas.
  • engages students with a story that layers the unexpected with original insights or surprising events.

The study of mathematics is not just about learning mathematical processes and memorizing facts and algorithms. Mathematics becomes more visible in everyday life when students discuss the uses and advantages of applying math in various situations and recognize the necessity of mathematics in careers, personal budgets, traveling, and even games. What better way to promote those discussions when so many children’s books are available to add fun and interest to topics in mathematics?

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