ArticlePDF Available

Narrative-first approach: Teaching mathematics through picture story books

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

The four pillars of student engagement, teacher engagement, breadth of mathematics and depth of mathematics are used to explain the benefits of a narrative-first approach for supporting the integration of mathematics and children's literature.
No caption available
… 
Content may be subject to copyright.
8APMC 23(2) 2018
Narrative-first approach:
Teaching mathematics through
picture story books
Toby Russo
Bell Primary School, Vic.
<russo.toby.t@edumail.vic.gov.au
James Russo
Monash University, Vic.
<james.russo@monash.edu>
e benets of using childrens storybooks to support
mathematics instruction in primary schools is well
established. Muir et al. (2017) note that children’s
literature can be used to engage students in the topic or
lesson, contextualise important mathematical concepts
and promote mathematical reasoning. Typically, how-
ever, attempts to use children’s storybooks begin with
identifying a relevant aspect of the curriculum, and then
selecting books that connect to the mathematical area
in focus. Sometimes these childrens books have been
purposefully written to explore particular mathematical
ideas (e.g., e Greedy Triangle, by Marilyn Burns).
Other times the mathematical idea is explored explicitly
in the book, even though the book itself may have been
written for a broader purpose (e.g., e Doorbell Rang,
by Pat Hutchins). ere are many examples of teacher
educators and classroom teachers publishing articles
in journals such as Teaching Children Mathematics and
Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom sharing
lessons and units of work in which they have harnessed
childrens storybooks that possess these explicit links
to specic mathematical concepts (e.g., Malinsky &
McJunkin, 2008; Padula, 2004; Taber & Canonica,
2008).
An alternative means of exploiting the benets of
childrens storybooks when teaching primary mathemat-
ics is to be led by the story, rather than by the curricu-
lum. We refer to this as a narrative-rst approach, and
contrast it with a curriculum-rst approach (Russo &
Russo, 2017e). e narrative-rst approach involves
rst identifying rich narratives, for example, favourite
picture storybooks or novels, mapping out the key
components of the story (e.g., the characters, the plot),
and then developing rich problem-solving tasks that
connect to these key components. Curriculum links
are then made retrospectively.
We believe the benets of the narrative-rst approach
for supporting the integration of mathematics with
Figure 1. The four pillars of a narrative-first approach. Figure 2. Illustrating the narrative-first approach—examples of titles.
The four pillars of student engagement, teacher engagement, breadth of mathematics and
depth of mathematics are used to explain the benefits of a
narrative-first approach
for
supporting the integration of mathematics and children’s literature.
Narrative-first approach: Teaching mathematics through picture story books
9APMC 23(2) 2018
childrens literature are considerable. In addition to the
aforementioned benets which apply more generally to
using childrens literature to support teaching mathemat-
ics (e.g., contextualizing mathematical ideas, engaging
students), we believe this narrative-rst approach has
some additional advantages, that can be framed around
four ‘pillars’ (see Figure 1).
e narrative-rst approach can be eective for eng-
aging students and teachers, and for dierentiating math-
ematical experiences (i.e., teaching for depth), whilst
simultaneously covering a range of important mathemat-
ical concepts (i.e., teaching for breadth).e remainder
of the paper will provide examples of problem-solving
activities, that have all been delivered in a primary school
classroom, from four diverse childrens storybooks. For
emphasis, each example is used to illustrate one of the
four pillars of the narrative-rst approach (see Figure 2).
However, we would argue that any one of these examples
is built around all four of these pillars.
Student engagement: Fish Out of Water
Student engagement is paramount to the narrative-rst
approach. rough using the story as a ‘hook’, students
are highly motivated to engage with the associated
mathematical tasks. In addition, the rich ctional world
created by the narrative serves as an authentic imagina-
tive space through which students can engage in mean-
ingful and relevant mathematics. In our view, for mathe-
matics to be authentic, problems do not have to be built
around a real-world context, so as long as the ctional
world created by the author is ‘alive’ for the students.
e text Fish Out of Water forms the basis of an
investigation using the narrative-rst approach that
was undertaken in a Year 5/6 class, with a high level of
student engagement in the task (Russo & Russo, 2017e).
Fish Out of Water investigation
At the beginning of the story, the little sh, Otto, was only 5cm long but by the end of the story, Otto was
so big he was just over the length of a 50m Olympic size swimming pool! If Otto doubled in length every
ten minutes, how long did it take Otto to grow to this size?
Extension
If Mr Carp had not have dived into the pool and saved the day, Otto would have kept on growing and
growing. How long would it have taken Otto to grow so big he wouldn’t t into Albert Park Lake? How
long until he would have outgrown the length of the Yarra river? How long until he would have outgrown
the Pacic Ocean? How long until he would have outgrown the earth? How long until Otto was so long,
he would have stretched all the way to the moon? What about the sun? Pluto? Alpha Centauri?
e known universe?
e text tells the story of a boy who buys a pet
goldsh and, disobeying the instructions of Mr. Carp
the pet shop owner, overfeeds his new pet. e sh
grows and grows until it needs to be transported into
a swimming pool. When Mr. Carp nally returns he
saves the day and turns the sh back to normal.
To begin, the text was read to a class, who were then
asked to consider a mathematical problem: the Fish
Out of Water investigation below.
Following the lesson, students were invited to
complete a reection exploring both what they enjoyed
about the activity and their own learning. As we have
discussed in a previous paper (Russo & Russo, 2017e),
students responded very positively to the lesson. Whilst
some students emphasised the benets of the narrative
‘hook’ for engaging them in the corresponding prob-
lem-solving task, other students valued the narrative
because it supported them to make sense of exponen-
tial growth as a concept. Two exemplar quotes from
students are provided below:
I thought it was a really good idea starting a
maths lesson with a story because it opened up
my mind in a way and made me want to know
what this had to do with the lesson. So I was
feeling intrigued and sort of open. e lesson
was really fun and interesting as well.
It was fun to read the story at the start and then
go into maths because it helped explain some
things… it helped me make sense of it and
understand it better.
Student reections on their learning emphasized
two major themes: a developing appreciation for the
power of exponential growth and understanding the
Russo & Russo
10 APMC 23(2) 2018
relationship between dierent units of measurement.
Again, two illustrative student quotes are provided:
I learnt about how doubling again and again can
makes things big in such a short amount
of time.
I learnt about exponential growth which, I think,
is when something gets bigger and the size dou-
bles each time… and I got to practice converting
m-cm-km.
Teacher engagement:
Where the Wild Things Are
Many teachers feel restricted covering curriculum content
and this can be an impediment to developing engaging
tasks. We believe the narrative-rst approach allows for
greater exibility and creativity when planning maths
activities as teachers can primarily focus on developing
rich, authentic problem-solving tasks. is allows for
the focus to be on the four prociencies (understanding,
uency, problem solving and reasoning) when planning
tasks, rather than simply the content strands.
e narrative-rst approach also facilitates teacher
engagement as teachers can choose texts that they
personally enjoy and are excited to share with students.
is can be further enhanced by a teacher’s personal
connection to a text, which can motivate the develop-
ment of the associated task. For example, one of the
rst author’s favourite books as a child was Maurice
Sendak’s Where the Wild ings Are. is classic picture
storybook begins with the protagonist Max being sent
to bed without supper. His room transforms into a
mysterious world and he travels to the Land of the
Wild ings. Here he becomes king of many strange
creatures, only to travel back to his room where his
supper is waiting for him, still hot.
Part of the author’s fascination with this text was
the way in which so much time seemed to pass on Max’s
adventures, only for him to return home apparently
minutes later. is narrative opened up the concept of
alternative realities and the idea the time can be relative;
ideas that continue to fascinate into adulthood. e
author’s excitement has been harnessed and translated
into a mathematical investigation exploring these
concepts, which was undertaken with a Year 5/6 class
(Russo, 2018).
After reading the book, the class explored the sections
of text that specically state how much time Max spent
travelling to and from the Land of the Wild ings.
is could be done as a class, leading to the investiga-
tion outlined below, or as a stand-alone mathematical
investigation.
And an ocean tumbled by with a private
boat for Max
and he sailed o through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year
to where the wild things are.
e class concluded that it took 365 days (‘almost
over a year’) to get to the Land of e Wild ings.
But Max stepped into his private boat
and waved goodbye
and sailed back over a year
and in and out of weeks
and through a day.
e class concluded that this period was equal to one
year plus two weeks plus one day, plus ve days staying
at the Land of e Wild ings or 385 days. is makes
a total of 750 days (365 + 385) that had passed in the
Land of the Wild ings.
Students then considered “How much time do you
think passed at home?”, looking at this section of the
text:
Where he found his supper waiting for him
and it was still hot.
Student A: Well his dinner was still hot, so it couldn’t
have been all that long.
Student B: I reckon about ve minutes, no longer
than that.
It was agreed that ve minutes had passed in the ‘real
world’.
Where the Wild Things Are investigation
Using this information, how much time passes in
the Land of the Wild ings, compared with one
minute in the real world?
Extension
Max went to sleep at 9pm, after eating his supper,
and woke up at 6.30am. He then went straight
back to the Land of the Wild ings. How much
time has passed there?
e next time Max returned it was four years
later, at age 12. How much time had passed now?
Narrative-first approach: Teaching mathematics through picture story books
11APMC 23(2) 2018
Breadth of mathematics:
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back
In our experience, creating rich applied tasks and
investigations using the narrative-rst approach results
in numerous and various links to relevant curriculum
documents. After reading the book e Cat in the Hat
Comes Back to his Year 5/6 class, the rst author had
students engage with an investigation that involved a
range of mathematical ideas. is story is about the
return of the Cat in the Hat to the home of Sally and
her brother, who proceeds to make another horrendous
mess and then pulls out a series of small cats (Little
Cats A to Z) to help him clean up.
The Cat In the Hat Comes Back investigation
e Cat in the Hat is 1.6m tall and his hat is
another 65cm high.
Little Cat A is 1
5
the size of the Cat in the Hat.
Little Cat B is
1
2
the size of Little Cat A.
Little Cat C is
1
2
the size of Little Cat B,
and on it goes.
How tall is Cat C? What about Cat E?
Can you think of things in real life the same size
as these cats?
Extension
What is the size of Cat H?
Can you even see Cat Z?!
Are there any things in real life the same size as
these cats?
Do you think all these little cats would really t
inside the Cat in the Hat’s hat?
e curriculum links for this task are somewhat
dependent on the strategies used by individual students.
However all students recognised the initial need to
determine the size of Little Cat A and, in order to do
this eciently, their intuition was to convert 1.6 metres
to 160 centimetres to make the problem more workable
(VCMMG223; VCAA, 2017). Students were then re-
quired to explore fractions of an amount(VCMNA213;
VCAA, 2017), i.e., “If e Cat in e Hat is 160cm and
Little Cat A is one fth his size, then what is one fth
of 160?” “If Little Cat B is half the size of little Cat A,
what is one half of 32?”
As students worked through the extension, they
needed to create a sequence involving fractions or
decimals based on continuous halving (VCMNA219;
VCAA, 2017). Some students used multiplication of
decimals as a strategy for solving this problem, which is
within Level 7 of the curriculum (VCMNA244; VCAA,
2017), i.e., If Little Cat G is 0.5cm, then Little Cat F
is 0.5cm × 0.5cm. At this point, many students elected
to use digital technologies (i.e., calculators) for the
required division problems (VCMNA209; VCAA, 2017)
and some even had a go at using an algebraic expression
to nd a more ecient solution, which is within Level 7
or beyond (VCMNA252; VCAA, 2017). In order to solve
the ultimate question, students were required to add a
series of decimals (VCMNA214; VCAA, 2017) and then
compare this answer with the original size of the hat
(VCMMG224; VCAA, 2017).
Table 1 outlines the breadth of curriculum links
connected to this rich task when taught in a 5/6 class-
room. For the purpose of this table, all content descrip-
tors are from the Victorian Curriculum–Level 6, although
it should be noted that many connections could also
be made to the Level 5 and Level 7 curriculum.
Figure 3. Content descriptors from the Victorian Curriculum linked to The Cat in the Hat Comes Back investigation (VCAA, 2017).
Number and algebra (Level 6) Measurement and geometry
(Level 6)
Number and
place value Fractions and decimals Patterns and
algebra Using units of measurement
Select and apply ecient
mental and written
strategies and appropriate
digital technologies to
solve problems involving
all four operations with
whole numbers and
make estimates for these
computations.
(VCMNA209)
Find a simple
fraction of a
quantity where
the result is a
whole number,
with and
without digital
technologies.
(VCMNA213)
Add and subtract
decimals, with
and without dig-
ital technologies,
and use estima-
tion and round-
ing to check the
reasonableness
of answers.
(VCMNA214)
Continue and
create sequences
involving whole
numbers, fractions
and decimals.
Describe the rules
used to create the
sequence.
(VCMNA219)
Convert between
common metric
units of length,
mass and
capacity.
(VCMMG223)
Solve problems
involving the
comparison of
lengths and areas
using appropri-
ate units.
(VCMMG224)
Russo & Russo
12 APMC 23(2) 2018
Figure 4. A student represented her thinking using Unifix
and associated number sentences.
Figure 5. Another student used a grid to represent the
house, and the initial of the animal to represent how much
space it is occupying.
Figure 6. A Year 5/6 student systematically identifies all
whole-number solutions to the Squash and a Squeeze
investigation.
All Year 5/6 students were able to solve this part of the
problem without manipulatives. Furthermore, some
students understood that by using decimals there would
be many more solutions, with some proposing innite
possibilities (see Figures 6 and 7).
Depth of mathematics: A Squash and
a Squeeze
In general, when developing a problem-solving task
using the narrative-rst approach, we aim to ensure
that the task is suitable for a variety of ability levels and
grade levels. e following investigation was developed
around the text A Squash and a Squeeze. is is a story
about a little old lady who feels her house is too small,
so a wise old man advises her to bring her animals into
the house, which eventually results in the lady realising
her house is relatively big once the animals are removed.
e investigation was taught with both a Year 2 class
and a Year 5/6 class. Whilst all Year 2 students attempt-
ed the initial investigation, around half the students
subsequently attempted the extension (Extension A).
By contrast, all Year 5/6 students attempted both the
initial investigation and extension (Extension A), with
around three-quarters of the class also engaging with
the additional extension (Extension B).
Initial investigation: A Squash and a Squeeze
investigation
e little old lady’s cottage was exactly 60 square
metres in area. Sharing her house with a hen, goat,
pig and cow did not leave a lot of space for the old
lady! To live comfortably:
• A hen needs exactly 5 square metres of space;
• A pig needs exactly 15 square metres of space;
• A goat needs at least 10 square metres of space,
but no more than 15 square metres;
• A cow needs at least 18 square metres of space,
but no more than 25 square metres.
When she was living with all four animals, how
much space might have been left for the old lady?
Show as many dierent possibilities as you can.
What is the least amount of space the old lady
would have to herself? What is the most amount
of space?
e initial investigation focuses on additive thinking,
in particular the part-whole idea, which is a central
concept in early primary school mathematics. Reect-
ing their developmental phase, many Year 2 students
attempted to represent their thinking using either
concrete materials, such as Unix (see Figure 4) or the
square grid on the back of a 100s chart to represent the
area of the house (see Figure 5).
Narrative-first approach: Teaching mathematics through picture story books
13APMC 23(2) 2018
Extension A: More part-whole and opportunities
for multiplicative thinking
e average Australian house is 240 square metres
in area. Given the above requirements for space,
what are some dierent combinations of hens,
goats, pigs and cows that could live comfortably
in the average Australian house?
e extended investigation provides further opportu-
nities to explore the part-whole idea (with larger num-
bers), whilst also providing opportunities for multiplica-
tive thinking (e.g., students can ‘scale up’ their answers
from the initial investigation). It was common for Year
2 students who attempted the extended investigation
to build on their grid representation employed for the
initial problem (see Figure 8).
Figure 7. This student has recognised that there are “infinite
possibilities between 12 and 0” due to possible decimal amounts.
Extension B: Contrasting additive thinking with
proportional reasoning
After doing the initial investigation and Extension
A, Josh and Jill were discussing the Squash and the
Squeeze problem.
Josh: Why didn’t the little old lady just buy herself
a bigger house to begin with? If the average
Australian house is 240 square metres, she
would have had a lot more space to herself.
Jill: I actually think she is better o having lived
with the animals, and then getting rid of
them, than just buying a bigger house to
begin with. Her little house without the
animals feels bigger than moving to a bigger
house would have felt at the beginning of
the story.
Josh: But buying a bigger house would have given
her way more extra space! Instead of having
60 square metres, should would have had
240 square metres all to herself!.
Jill: But her little house still felt so much bigger!
With all the animals living there, she had no
more than 12 square metres of space. When
all the animals moved out, she had 60 square
metres all to herself! is change would feel
even bigger than if she had of just bought
a bigger house to begin with!
Who do you agree with, Josh or Jill? Can both
of them be right? Can you use mathematics to
prove that Josh’s reasoning is correct? Can you use
mathematics to prove that Jill’s reasoning is correct?
Some Year 5/6 students were limited to additive think-
ing when tackling this problem and therefore determined
that “Josh is correct” because a dierence of 180m2 is
larger than a dierence of 48m2. Others made the com-
parison between additive and multiplicative thinking,
although some of these students required
additional prompting questions from the
teacher to get to this point. Several Year
5/6 students used proportional reason-
ing to conclude that both Josh and Jill
could be correct, depending on how you
interpreted the problem (see Figure 9).
Figure 8. A student built on a grid representation to attempt the extended investigation.
e focus of Extension B is to invite students to
contrast additive thinking with multiplicative thinking
and, in particular, apply proportional reasoning.
Russo & Russo
14 APMC 23(2) 2018
Figure 9. A student demonstrated both multiplicative (top right)
and additive reasoning (bottom left) and in discussion compared
these to determine both Josh and Jill could be correct.
Concluding thoughts
It is common for childrens literature to be used in
connection with mathematical learning, but often
the maths is supercially linked to the text or a text is
chosen for its mathematical focus. is article outlined
a narrative-rst approach to lesson planning, whereby
key ideas, themes, and characters from well-known
childrens stories are reconstructed through a mathe-
matical lens.
We have attempted to demonstrate how the
narrative-rst approach can simultaneously engage-
teachers and students and energise the mathematics
classroom, whilst allowing a range of mathematical
skills and concepts to be covered across a variety of
ability levels. For other examples of our attempts to
employ this approach, see Russo & Russo (2017a,
2017b, 2017c, 2017d., 2018). If youd like to nd
out more about this approach or any of the example
lessons, please feel free to email the authors.
References
Malinsky, M. A., & McJunkin, M. (2008). Wondrous tales of
measurement. Teaching Children Mathematics, 14(7), 410–413.
Muir, T., Livy, S., Bragg, L., Clark, J., Wells, J., & Attard, C. (2017).
Engaging with mathematics through picture books. Albert Park,
Australia: Teaching Solutions.
Padula, J. (2004). e role of mathematical ction in the learning of
mathematics in primary school. Australian Primary Mathematics
Classroom, 9(2), 8–14.
Russo, J., & Russo, T. (2017a). Harry Potter-inspired mathematics.
Teaching Children Mathematics, 24(1), 18–19.
Russo, J., & Russo, T. (2017b). Math and Mr. Men. Teaching Children
Mathematics, 24(2), 82–83.
Russo, J., & Russo, T. (2017c). One sh, two sh, red sh, blue sh.
Teaching Children Mathematics, 23(6), 338–339.
Russo, J., & Russo, T. (2017d). Problem solving with the Sneetches.
Teaching Children Mathematics, 23(5), 282–283.
Russo, J., & Russo, T. (2017e). Using rich narratives to engage students
in mathematics: A narrative-rst approach. In R. Seah, M. Horne,
J. Ocean, & C. Orellana (Ed.), Proceedings of the 54th Annual
Conference of the Mathematics Association of Victoria (pp. 78–84).
Melbourne, Australia: MAV.
Russo, T., & Russo, J. (2018). e narrative-rst approach: Room
on the broom investigation. Prime Number, 33(2), 10–11.
Russo, T. (2018). Challenging task: Where the wild things are.
Prime Number, 33(1), 16–19.
Taber, S. B., & Canonica, M. (2008). Sharing. Teaching Children
Mathematics, 15(1), 55–61.
Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) (2017).
e Victorian curriculum F-10: Mathematics.
... The focus of the current research is on the use of challenging tasks that begin with a narrative [17] to support students in upper primary school (Year 5; 10 and 11 year olds) to explore proportional reasoning. Proportional reasoning refers to the capacity to compare situations in relative (multiplicative) rather than absolute (additive) terms [18]. ...
... The curriculum links arise retrospectively. We call this the narrative-first approach [17]. It aligns with Trakulphadetkrai and colleagues' [27] second category of mathematical stories, which refers to narratives which were "not originally created with an intention for them to become a mathematical story but containing a storyline that lends itself naturally for a mathematical investigation" (p. ...
... We then invited students to summarize the key components of the story, put forward several provocative questions to further immerse students in the narrative world, and finally presented a mathematical task to students that we believed emerged authentically from the story. Elsewhere we have described this approach to launching a mathematics task as a narrative-first approach [17]. During the explore phase of the lesson, students spent the first five minutes working independently on the task. ...
Article
Full-text available
Using children’s literature to support mathematics instruction has been connected to positive academic outcomes and learning dispositions; however, less is known about the use of audiovisual based narrative mediums to support student mathematical learning experiences. The current exploratory, qualitative study involved teaching three lessons based on challenging, problem solving tasks to two classes of Australian Year (Grade) 5 students (10 and 11 year olds). These tasks were developed from various narratives, each portrayed through a different medium (movie clip, short film, picture story book). Post lesson interviews were undertaken with 24 students inviting them to compare and contrast this lesson sequence with their usual mathematics instruction. Drawing on a self-determination theory lens, our analysis revealed that these lessons were experienced by students as both highly enjoyable and mathematically challenging. More specifically, it was found that presenting mathematics tasks based on rich and familiar contexts and providing meaningful choices about how to approach their mathematical work supported student autonomy. In addition, there was evidence that the narrative presentation supported student understanding of the mathematics through making the tasks clearer and more accessible, whilst the audiovisual mediums (movie clip, short film) in particular provided a dynamic representation of key mathematical ideas (e.g., transformation and scale). Students indicated an eclectic range of preferences in terms of their preferred narrative mediums for exploring mathematical ideas. Our findings support the conclusion that educators and researchers focused on the benefits of teaching mathematics through picture story books consider extending their definition of narrative to encompass other mediums, such as movie clips and short films.
... Our contention is that a mathematical lens offers one perspective on a narrative, and that educators attempting to develop tasks connected to picture story books should consider being led by the narrative, rather than the curriculum. We have termed this a "narrative-first approach" (Russo & Russo, 2018). ...
... We have found contexts that genuinely pique student interest to be particularly powerful for supporting mathematical inquiry. This appears to be the case whether these contexts are based in reality (e.g., basketball, dance; Russo & Russo, 2019) or fiction (e.g., movies, picture story books; Russo & Russo, 2018). We hope the approach outlined in this article encourages teachers to experiment with using movies to support mathematical problem solving in their primary classrooms. ...
Article
Full-text available
A great deal of research has looked at the use of photographs, illustrations, and diagrams to support student understanding of mathematical concepts. In this paper, the authors explore some of the advantages that dynamic representations have over their static counterparts as they put movies under a mathematical lens.
... After the RGB space information of image is transformed into HSV space language, the area of index number of library books can be determined through the value range of each component. At the same time, the problem of poor positioning accuracy caused by single image is eliminated, so as to improve the recognition effect (None., 2018;Russo & Russo, 2018). The layout of bookshelves is displayed from top to bottom. ...
Article
Full-text available
At present, the library book positioning system is mostly used to assist the collection resources to complete the inventory work, but the book image processing ability of the system is poor, resulting in the book positioning accuracy is not high. Therefore, a library book location system based on extension analytic hierarchy process and automatic speech recognition technology is designed. The S3C2410 chip of ARM920T core is selected as the CPU to optimize the wireless network gateway structure, and the cc2480 RF chip is selected as the gateway processing chip. This paper uses the decision matrix of the extension analytic hierarchy process and automatic speech recognition technology to realize the recognition of book index number image. The obtained book image is converted from RGB space language to HSV space language, and the processing speed of book positioning is improved through the selection of color. Compared with the existing system, it can be seen that the system has higher data positioning accuracy and better use effect.
Article
Full-text available
This qualitative survey study set out to investigate in-service and pre-service primary school teachers’ perceived barriers to and enablers for the integration of children’s literature in mathematics teaching and learning in an Australian educational context. While research over the past three decades have documented pedagogical benefits of teaching mathematics using children’s literature, research into teachers’ perceptions regarding the use of such resources is virtually non-existent. The study thus filled this research gap by drawing responses from open-ended survey questions of 94 in-service and 82 pre-service teachers in Australia. A thematic analysis revealed 13 perceived barriers classified under five themes with Lack of Pedagogical Knowledge and Confidence, and Time Constraint, representing 75% of all perceived barriers. Moreover, 14 perceived enablers were identified and classified under five themes with Pedagogical Benefits and Love of Stories representing around 70% of all perceived enablers. Findings also showed that most of the teachers in the study (around 75%) never or infrequently used children’s literature in their mathematics classrooms. The study highlights the role of professional learning and teacher training in ensuring that both in- and pre-service teachers have the necessary pedagogical knowledge, experience and confidence in using children’s literature to enrich their mathematics teaching.
Article
Full-text available
This article outlines teaching ideas appropriate for primary mathematics. It is mainly aimed at primary school teachers and teacher-researchers. The Room on the Broom text is used as an example to illustrate how one might structure a lesson using the Narrative-First Approach.
Article
Full-text available
This article takes readers through a challenging maths task built around the children's book, Where the Wild Things Are. Using the Narrative First Approach, the author has developed a task centred around Max's journey to the land of the wild things which explores concepts of relative time and proportional reasoning. The article provides student work samples based on the delivery of the lesson in an upper primary classroom in Australia, and ideas about how the activity could be used for younger students.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Setting students problem-solving tasks that are simultaneously engaging and mathematically important is central to primary mathematics instruction. Often an attempt to develop engaging tasks involves first determining the meaningful mathematics to be learnt, and then creating a ‘mini-narrative’ as a vehicle for exploring these concepts. However, in our experience, the more familiar, enjoyable and deeply developed the narrative, the more engaging the task is for students. Consequently, we demonstrate how there might be value in inverting the process- that is, beginning with rich narratives, and mapping on the mathematics- through creating mathematical tasks embedded in examples of well-known children’s literature. This is termed the Narrative-First Approach. We discuss one specific text – Fish Out of Water – and an associated mathematical investigation in some depth, including commenting on student work samples and student post-lesson reflections.
Article
Full-text available
This article outlines teaching ideas appropriate for primary mathematics. It is mainly aimed at primary school teachers and teacher-researchers. Read, watch, or just discuss J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone with your class, and then get students to engage with these associated mathematical problems. The problems cover a diverse range of key mathematical concepts. (Note: The title for U.S. readers is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.)
Article
Full-text available
This article outlines teaching ideas appropriate for primary mathematics. It is mainly aimed at primary school teachers and teacher-researchers. Read the classic Dr. Seuss book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish with your class, then engage students in mathematics using these related math problems, which cover a diverse range of key mathematical concepts.
Article
Full-text available
Math by the Month features collections of short activities focused on a monthly theme. These articles aim for an inquiry or problem-solving orientation that includes four activities each for grade bands K–2, 3–4, and 5–6. In this issue, teachers read the classic Dr. Seuss book The Sneetches and other stories with their class and get students to engage with these associated mathematical problems. The problems, many of which are open-ended or contain multiple solutions or solution pathways, cover a range of mathematical concepts.
Article
Have you ever considered teaching mathematical concepts through the use of children's literature? One way to begin is to re-create how children learned long ago—elders spinning yarns as twilight deepened, young people caught up in wondrous tales that taught them about their world. To help students make a tactile connection to the experience from long ago, all you need are a skein of yarn and eager students seated in a circle.
Engaging with mathematics through picture books
  • T Muir
  • S Livy
  • L Bragg
  • J Clark
  • J Wells
  • C Attard
Muir, T., Livy, S., Bragg, L., Clark, J., Wells, J., & Attard, C. (2017). Engaging with mathematics through picture books. Albert Park, Australia: Teaching Solutions.
The role of mathematical fiction in the learning of mathematics in primary school
  • J Padula
Padula, J. (2004). The role of mathematical fiction in the learning of mathematics in primary school. Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom, 9(2), 8-14.
  • J Russo
  • T Russo
Russo, J., & Russo, T. (2017b). Math and Mr. Men. Teaching Children Mathematics, 24(2), 82-83.