Do trade books have a place in today’s mathematics classroom? Yes! Incorporating literature into the mathematics classroom at any level can increase student engagement, can make the mathematics being studied come alive for the student as well as have meaning, and can help to differentiate instruction as well as support ELL/ESL students. Using literature helps students build a conceptual understanding of mathematical topics via the illustrations. Rich problems and tasks can be generated based upon the story being read as well as opportunities for writing original stories, explanations, predictions, etc.
Reading stories spark a student’s imagination and can allow them an opportunity to see a context for a problem or situation and visualize it in a way that the same problem in a textbook or on a worksheet might not. Using literature also bridges the gap for students who are verbal learners and who love to read but may not enjoy working with numbers as much. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics notes the importance of communication in mathematics education (NCTM, PSSM, 2000).
A couple of years ago I wrote about the benefits of using literature into the mathematics curriculum. I received a lot of positive feedback from that as well as questions about what specifically to do with a piece of literature. Out of that came the series Using Trade Books in the Classroom activity packets that can be found on the Math Market. Again, many teachers have given positive feedback on using the packets but wanted more. About the same time an email came my way on e-book authoring. So I took the activity packets and am expanding them, adding additional material, and now have the first in the series of four e-books: Mathematical Literacy: Using Trade Books in the Primary Classroom. Check out this MUST HAVE, new resource that contains over 80 activities. From questions to engage students as the literature is being read to opportunities for students to engage in authentic writing, teachers will find something that they can begin using immediately in their classroom. Additionally there are over 30 investigations and mathematical experiences for students designed to connect to the 10 pieces of literature highlighted in this book. Check out the FREE place value mats designed to go with some of the activities in the book. They have each of the representations for place value: the number word, the numeral, the picture of the base ten material, and the base ten material name. There is one for place value to hundreds and one for place value to thousands.
Check back often as I am currently working on the other three grade bands in the series.