Reading and Writing Math Stories

The premise of this unit is that writing stories with mathematics embedded in them allows the students to experience math in different modalities, reading and writing. Additionally, having students experience mathematics through different contexts provide students an opportunity to let the math problems/concepts grow naturally from the story line. Again, making connections for students, accessing prior knowledge, and engaging students are all goals of the authors.

The authors discuss many types of stories: open-ended, math mysteries, mathematized fable/fairy tales, tall tales, round-robin tales, math plays, and story songs and rhymes. Experiencing mathematics from literature is a way of accessing students that does not occur in a traditional classroom, and because reading stories does not usually occur in a mathematics classroom, the teachers will be including more students than usually with this type of instruction.

The format for this chapter is the same as the previous one. The authors provide examples followed by writing activities that can be used.

I thought the Lewis Carroll example was a great example of how students could experience math from a very different viewpoint. There are a lot of examples of Lewis' writing in mathematics lessons. I thought the authors’ connections to math were tenuous, not rigorous, and not conceptual. I would have preferred they discuss the story of Alice in Wonderland from a fractional multiplication standpoint as Susan Taber did in her 2007 article in Mathematics Teacher Magazine. Susan developed the use of the story to motivate, hook and engage the students and then actually used the story to create conceptual images of Alice growing after drinking from the bottle. She has students determine what would happen to Alice if she drank from a bottle labeled 1/9 or 5/6.
The students use an initial height of 54 inches (or for mixed number practice 4 1/2 feet) and figure out what height Alice would be afterward. There are lots of connections that can be developed in this way. Susan also, references the original artwork for a discussion of similar figures.

The prompts that the authors provide can easily be adapted for a more conceptual approach. In fact I like several of the prompts, and think the strength of the prompts are providing teachers who don't necessarily know how to create them will have lots of examples from which to choose. The prompts are written to expand the issues/concepts in the story and are plain enough that teachers could create their own from the examples provided.