Literature book to engage students in mathematics
Rational for the Research
How does the use of literacy books change my students’ attitudes about mathematics? My current caseload consists of 18 students in the 4th grade, 5 boys and 13 girls. These students attend a title 1 school and many of these students have only attended this school making them non-transient. At the beginning of the year, many of these students did not respond well to the learning of new math concepts and stated their disliking towards mathematics. The use of literacy books at the start of a lesson to introduce, reinforce, and or hook the students’ attention on mathematics was practiced to see if students would change their attitudes towards mathematics. Using literacy books to start out the lesson does take more time than skipping to explicit instruction, however, the engaging effects of literacy books might be worth the efforts. The aim of this research is to show how through the use of literacy book in mathematics students will become more apt to take part in mathematics.
Connecting mathematics through literature books is not a new idea and there is a growing body of research supporting the inclusion of literacy books to teach mathematics. There is plenty of literature on the topic of including literacy books in mathematics lessons. Literacy books have the potential to engage students and improve the learning that takes place during mathematics due to the natural flow of mathematical ideas.
Literacy books can be used as a tool to hook and engage the students by introducing the mathematical concepts through the use of a story. Project Science and Mathematics Integrated with Literacy Experiences (SMILE) studied fifth-grade students using literature books to teach mathematics found an increase in students’ interest and confidence in mathematics (Ruiz, Thornton, & Cuero, 2010, p.235). Robin A. Ward (2005) in her article Using children’s literature in inspire K-8 pre-service teachers’ future mathematics pedagogy gives a qualitative description of incorporating literature books that suggests positive outcomes. Many of the studies conducted have qualitative data that suggest the power and positive effect literature books have on the teaching of mathematical ideas.
Literature books serve as a real world connection to mathematics. Students are able to better link mathematics if they have a visual image to connect to the mathematical concept. Ruiz, E., Thornton, J., & Cuero, K. (2010) reference Rushton and Larkin (2001) statement that, “symbolic representations like letters and numbers were better learned if they could be linked or connected to vivid visual images such as pictures (p.236).” Literature books serve as the real world connection students can link the mathematical idea with.
“integrating literature into the mathematics curriculum provides a natural setting for observing mathematics in the real world, and thus conveying real meaning to students (Ward, 2005, p.134).”
Literature books naturally connect mathematics through a medium some students have confidence in thus boosting their confidence with mathematics. For many students mathematics is intimidating language to learn and literacy books can help ease the transition of a new language. According to Marilyn Burns (2005), when teaching math, “children’s books can be a great math teaching tool” and “connecting math to literature can boost the confidence of those who love books but are math-wary” (p.27). Furthermore, mathematics should not be taught in isolation, “the separation of language and mathematics instruction in the elementary grade is very unnatural for children (Moyers, 2000, p.255).
Patricia S. Moyer (2000) the author of Communicating mathematically: Children’s literature as a natural connection points out, “Children literature provides a context through which mathematical concepts, patterns, problem solving, and real-world context may be explored (p.246).” By using children’s books to teach mathematics children began to see mathematics as a part of everyday experiences.
The NCTM documents states: “When mathematics evolves naturally from problem situations that have meaning to children and are regularly related to their environment, becomes relevant and helps children link their knowledge to many kinds of situations (Moyers, 2000, p.249).”
Thus, children’s books that have pattern development also help develop mathematical thinking.
There are plenty of examples modeling how to incorporate literature books into mathematics lessons. According to Patricia S. Moyer (2000), “ there are literally hundreds books that naturally develop mathematical concepts (p.247).” Within Moyer’s article (2000) she provides an annotated list of books that teach mathematical concepts. Marilyn Burns (2005) provides 3 detailed lessons with step-by-step directions on how the lesson might look with her favorite mathematics lessons using literature books.
With the growing body of research indicating the positive impact literature books have on teaching mathematics one should expect to see mathematical improvements if they include this teaching method.
The participants for this action research study were 5 male students and 13 female students from the 4th grade classroom. The study was conducted during their regular mathematics-learning period.
In this study, structured interviews of teacher were conducted, as they were available via in-person. Students were given a structured survey and responded to it. This survey required students to think about what math was like before using literacy books and after. It was on a scale from 1 to 5. The teacher conducted observations as students were being introduced to mathematical concepts through the use of literacy books. Students responded to mathematical lessons using journal responses. These journals were coded by students’ responses. All data was coded by the teacher using the codes: positive, negative, and neutral. Data collecting lasted for a 4-week period.
In this study, the intention is to explore the benefits that literacy books have on the mathematics curriculum by engaging the student and providing real world connections. If I provide a literature book to teach a lesson that requires student interaction to complete the lesson I should see an increase in students’ attitudes towards mathematics. The literature books will be used as a method to engage and make connections with students. With the use of literacy books in mathematics, students should become more comfortable and apt to do math based on the engaging affects and real-world connections.
This qualitative study took about 4 weeks and involved using the qualitative inductive design. Bits and pieces of information from interviews, observations, surveys and narrative statement (journal responses) were combined and ordered into themes. The two themes were students engage in mathematics due to literature books and students make real-world connections due to literature books. Data was collected using narrative statements from both teacher and students. Teachers were approached in-person and students were asked to respond to narrative statements in a journal. These responses were grouped into categories: neutral, positive, and negative. From data it was theorized that students preferred and developed a greater sense of mathematical ideas when literacy books were integrated into the mathematics curriculum.
It is important to note that some biases may have influenced the responses of candidates in the study because the researcher and teacher conducting this study is very fond of using literacy books and encourages students to like them as well.
Burns, M. (2005). 3 lessons by Marilyn Burns: using storybooks to teach math. Instructor, 114(7), 27-30.
Cotti, R., & Schiro, M. (2004). Connecting teacher beliefs to the use of children’s literature in the teaching of mathematics. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 7(4), 329-356.
Hong, H. (1996). Effects of mathematics learning through children’s literature on math achievement and dispositional outcomes. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 4(11), 477-494.
Mink, D., & Fraser, B. (2005). Evaluation of a K-5 mathematics program which integrates children’s literature: classroom environment and attitudes. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 3, 59-85.
Moyer, P. (2000). Communicating mathematically: children’s literature as a natural connection. The Reading Teacher, 54(3), 246-255.
Ruiz, E., Thornton, J., & Cuero, K. (2010). Integrating literature in mathematics: a
teaching technique for mathematics teacher. School Science and Mathematics, 110(5), 235-237.
Shatzer, J. (2008). Picture book power: connecting children’s literature and mathematics. The Reading Teacher, 61(8), 649-653.
Thatcher, D. (2001). Reading in math class: selecting and using picture books for math investigations. young children, July, 20-21.
Ward, R. (2005). Using children’s literature to inspire K-8 preservice teachers’ future mathematics pedagogy. The Reading Teacher, 59(2), 132-143.