When it comes to public education, almost everyone has an opinion: teachers are paid too much, teachers aren’t paid enough, the system is ineffective and should be disbanded, the system is ineffective and should be enlarged, there are too many standardized tests, there aren’t enough standardized tests. Arguments are made around every aspect of public education, with statistics and research-based evidence cited on all sides. In the ongoing debate, many critics of the current system are advocating for heavier emphasis on STEM topics, which have been traditionally less accessible for students.
It can be a daunting task for teachers to effectively teach engaging mathematics lessons, especially at the elementary school level, where students can easily lose their confidence and interest in math with the rapidly advancing difficulty of curriculum. A growing trend to combat the loss of interest in elementary aged-students is to introduce mathematical concepts through the lens of children’s literature. The argument for this approach is that it allows for the introduction of concepts in a highly engaging, non-threatening way. By first partaking in a story, students are drawn in, and can make real world connections to the concept before ever having to pick up a ruler or classify a shape.
Additionally, the idea of students gleaning mathematics concepts through the use of literature gives a cross-discipline element to lessons, and allows for the integration of a wider array of standards. To truly ingrain concepts into students’ minds. This, used in tandem with critical thinking prompts and summative assessments allows for students to translate their initial excitement about the concept into solving high-level problems.
According to research done by Whiten and Wilde (1995), integrating literature into math curriculums motivates students to learn, provides a framework for which to grasp challenging concepts, further develops number sense, and anchors math in human experiences. Malinsky and McJunkin (2008) echo these sentiments in Wondrous Tales of Measurement, using the example of a 5day measurement unit to demonstrate the merit of anchoring math concepts, such as measurement, in engaging literature. The result: students who feel well equipped to engage with mathematical concepts that might otherwise be intimidating or unappealing, and are invested and confident well before actually handling a problem set.
This approach questions the assumptions that mathematical concepts must be taught in a formulaic way, instead opening up the topic to, as the title suggests, wonder and excitement. It seems other educators are jumping on board, with Math and Literature: A Mach Made in the Classroom (found on educationworld.com) stating “Literature is the ideal vehicle to help your students see the importance of numbers in their daily lives.” It also provides a cross-curricular aspect to teaching, something that can greatly improve the connections students make and accelerate their growth. This process can allow them to see mathematics as a part of their daily lives, versus something contained simply within their classroom.
If you’re interested in integrating literature into your mathematics curriculum, below is a starting point collection of books aligned to various elementary-level (K-5) math concepts:
This innovative book by Greg Tang uses the lens of famous works of art to explore the benefits of grouping. Students will be engaged by the vivid imagery and riddles on each page.
This whimsical tales is written by Carol A. Losi, and gives a great framework for reinforcing doubles. As a little girl and her parent set up a picnic, they attract the notice of an ant, then two more, etc. Students will count along with the doubling ants for a fun and entertaining activity.
Stewart J. Murphey tells the tale of Ben and his mother’s math-laden journey to the top of a skyscraper. Ben uses subtraction to determine the next floor they visit on their journey, and he meets some animal friends along the way.
Another story by Stewart J. Murphey, this one geared at more advanced students. Sharks are training for a “swimathon”, and need to swim 75 laps by the end of the week in order to guarantee a sponsor. Readers track the amount of laps left every time the sharks swim, engaging the concept of two-digit subtraction.
In this fraction-based tale (with underlying lessons against greediness) by Matthew McElligott, Lion bakes a cake and offers to share with his friends. But, each friend takes a half of the cake – leaving none for Lion. Ant offers to bake Lion another cake. The friends feel bad, each promising to bake twice as many cakes as the last. Children will learn why the situation quickly spirals out of hand.
This invitation to explore fractions, written by Dayle Ann Dodds is told from the perspective of a housekeeper at a busy inn. Children explore and use reasoning skills along with the housekeeper to determine how to feed dessert to all they hungry guests.
This tale by Robert E. Wells introduces children to the concept of comparing lengths using non-standard forms of measurement. Starting with a blue whale, Wells challenges readers to think about the largest things in existence. This book could work across a variety of grade levels, and lends itself to graphing activities.
Keliko Kasza weaves a tale in which a hungry wolf craving chicken stew hatches a plan to fatten up his neighbor. He sends Mrs. Chicken all sorts of treats to plump her up, but when he finally goes to collect his prize, he has a shock in store. This book is a great introduction to graphing (measuring student’s favorite foods) and measuring amounts (baking activity based on the book).
Providing literature as a familiar and comforting anchor for students aids instilling a love of mathematics in scholars and giving them the confidence to go forward and conquer the problems set before them. Give it a try!
Malinsky. “Wondrous Tales of Measurement.” Teaching Children Mathematic 14 (2008): 410-13. ERIC. Web.
“Math for Kids– Best Childrens Books / Picture Books.” Math for Kids. Best Children’s Books, 4 Oct. 2016. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
Shatzer, Joyce. “Picture Book Power: Connecting Children’s Literature and Mathematics.” The Reading Teacher 61.8 (2008): 649-53. Web.
One of the perks of working at a university is the abundance of interesting free lectures and discussions going on all the time. A few months ago, I was able to attend a discussion by Dr. Garland Allen, Professor Emeritus, Biology Dept. who teaches the history and philosophy of biology – particularly genetics, embryology, and evolution – and their interrelationships between 1880 and 1950, most of which I don’t really understand.
But a lecture he gave that captured my interest was on the connection between the formation of National Parks, the Sierra Club and Eugenics, the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.
The lecture was fascinating on many levels, but the one point I want to address in this reflection is the racist beliefs that some of the key people who started the Conservation movement including John Muir held. Conservation leaders like John Muir believed that the indigenous people who had inhabited Yosemite for at least 6,000 years were a desecration and had to go. Now whether this was because John Muir and other Americans wanted Yosemite for an American National Park and the First Peoples who lived there were in the way is a story for another occasion.
The point that really got to me was that the white men who were designing the parks, establishing the Sierra Club, etc. viewed the First Peoples as already extinct. Even while their Eugenic standard of “quality” genes are reflected in the First Peoples, they did not include them in their thinking. Partly because they thought the American soldiers had or would eliminate them, and but also First People were on land that Americans wanted and interfered with their way of thinking of them as actual humans.
The broken treaties, some 357 out of the 400 that were made with the First Peoples, are still being broken today, for the same reasons. No matter where the Americans keep pushing the First People; land, water, mineral rights found then force the People off and treaties are ignored.
You only need to look to Standing Rock to see how the systemic racism, genocide and greed continues. For further info, https://www.facebook.com/Standing-Rock-Sioux-Tribe-402298239798452/
A thought that is starting to pick up a considerable measure of support in instructive circles right now is the idea of fixed mindsets versus growth and how, and how they may relate to our students and learning. In view of the work of Stanford University therapist, Carol Dweck, the idea of mindset is identified with our comprehension of where ability or capacity originates from. Recently, instructors having been using the status of mindset as a tool to investigate our insight into student accomplishment, and ways that such achievement may improve.
I have found that the thought of building up a development mentality is as similarly relevant to staff and instructor execution as it is to students. This blog starts with a brief discourse about the distinction between the two outlooks, what that implies for instruction, and finishes up with a few thoughts on how school leaders might look to build up a growth mindset among their staff.
The New Psychology of Success (2000), Dweck built up a continuum whereupon individuals can be set, based on their understandings about where capacity originates from. For a few people (toward one side of the continuum), success and failure depends on innate capacity or the absence of it. Deck depicts this as a fixed theory of intelligence and contends that this offers ascension to a fixed mindset. At the flip side of the continuum are those individuals who that believes achievement depends on a growth mindset. They contend that achievement depends on learning, perseverance and diligent work.
According to Dweck, In a fixed mindset, students think that their abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed attributes. They have a specific capacity and that’s all there is to it, and after that, their objective is to look smart and never look dumb. With a growth mentality, students understand that their abilities and talents can be developed through purposeful effort, great instruction, and persistence. They don’t really believe everybody’s the same or anybody can be Einstein, however, they trust everybody can become smarter because of work on it.
The vital point for individuals to understand is that mindsets have a substantial effect on our comprehension of achievement and failure. Fixed-mindset individuals fear disappointment, feeling that it reflects negatively upon themselves as people, while growth mindset individuals embrace disappointment and failure as a chance to learn and enhance their abilities.
Obviously, this body of thought has tremendous ramifications in education. One of the most important aspects relates to the cycle of feedback. As indicated by Dweck, when we praise students for how smart they are, we inadvertently may be encouraging them to develop a fixed mindset. On the other hand, when we praise students for their hard work and the process of learning, we are encouraging them to develop a growth mindset and expanding their potential.
We need to truly send the right messages, that embarking on a challenging task is admirable. Adhering to something difficult and attempting it numerous times says that you are committed and willing to work hard to achieve the task. At the end of the day, parents should ask “What amazing struggle did you encounter today?”
According to Dweck’s research students with a growth mindset are significantly more prone to go up against more difficult task and succeed versus students with a fixed mindset -even when all variables remain constant.
When students have a fixed mindset, there have feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. They eventually develop a self-defeating personality, and having toxic thoughts such as ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’m not smart.’
Alternately, a growth mindset among students will encourage feelings empowerment – students recognize how their actions can to positively influence their own learning and their community.
Mindsets can predict motivation and the achievement of students according to research.
The students with the growth mindset were more motivated to achieve, learn and put forth the effort, and outperformed their counterparts in math.
This finding should apply to not only students but adults as well. Principals can apply this to their staff, they can ask themselves “Does my staff have a growth mindset? “How would a shift in culture of thinking affect my students”
As per Jackie Gerstein, educators, similar to the students they instruct, can learn how to build a growth mindset. This requires strategic planning by school administration. The most obvious method for developing a growth mindset is modeling through professional development. to educator proficient improvement is through displaying. Gerstein has run various expert courses that try to train educators in how to demonstrate a growth mindset among students, and one of her top priorities are urging instructors to consider themselves to be learners, and, much the same as students, teachers are capable of learning, growing and improving their pedagogical practices.
Make space for new thoughts
A second principle requires that school leaders give chances to instructors chances to attempt new things and commit errors. They should be encouraged to innovate. This can appear to be overwhelming for instructors, yet it is fundamental to building up a development mindset. One of the key standards of such an outlook is the willingness and eagerness to attempt new methodologies. While making this space , it is important to begin with the learning in mind; that is, what will teachers and the school learn as part of the process, rather than whether the new idea is going to be a success or a failure.
Making time for self-reflection
While making space for new thoughts is imperative, it is just part of the way toward building up a growth mindset. Connected to it, and similarly imperative, is giving an opportunity to teachers to reflect upon their new thoughts and consider what they’ve learned from the new method. In a perfect world, this reflection should concentrate less on whether the practice was a win or a loss, but instead on what the teacher and student learned from the new practice.
The process of educator performance can be distressing and awkward. However, the process should be view as a process of development. This can be achieved by making it formative rather than summative and inviting the teachers in the process. The feedback would prove more meaningful and relate to the teacher’s everyday practice.
Building a Growth Mindset among students and educators is not a quick process; it will require a purposeful and strategic effort from the school community.
Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006.
Gerstein, Jackie. “The Educator with a Growth Mindset: A Staff Workshop.” User Generated Education. August 28, 2014. Accessed January 30, 2015. https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/the-educator-wit….