Friday, April 09, 2004

Literature-Based Mathematics in Elementary School.

Literature-Based Mathematics in Elementary School. I had never thought of math as a fiction genre before...

From the site:

"When we think of mathematics books, we think of non-fiction, even though mathematics itself is predominantly fiction" (Pappas, 1999).

Some of us may feel uncomfortable with the notion that mathematics is fiction, but the concepts and procedures of mathematics are all constructions of our minds, products of our attempts to understand our worlds, real and imaginary. Some mathematical ideas have obvious practical applications in our everyday lives, while other ideas seem very abstract, with little apparent connection to life as most of us experience it. All mathematical ideas, though, take shape through our attempts to communicate, and therefore find their way into our literature. Having an inherent sense of number (Dehaene, 1997), we express mathematical ideas in stories, essays, poems, books, and other forms of literature that convey life experiences, real or imagined. One way of connecting school mathematics to everyday life, then, is to draw attention to the mathematics embedded in the literature of everyday life, to reveal the mathematics inherent in human thinking and communication about life experiences.


Linking mathematics instruction to children's literature has become increasingly popular in recent years for a variety of reasons. Some suggest that the literature connection motivates students (Usnick & McCarthy, 1998), provokes interest (Welchman-Tischler, 1992), helps students connect mathematical ideas to their personal experiences (Murphy, 2000), accommodates children with different learning styles (Murphy, 2000), promotes critical thinking (Murphy, 2000), or provides a context for using mathematics to solve problems (Jacobs & Rak, 1997; Melser & Leitze, 1999). Hebert and Furner (1997) introduced the idea of "bibliotherapy" to help students see mathematics as a tool for making life easier. Smith (1999) described the use of literature in designing lessons that place mathematical ideas in a cultural context.


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