Math is Storytelling


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This is an abbreviated version of the presentation "Math is Storytelling: Bringing Play and a Sense of Narrative to Problem Solving" from the 2011 NAEYC annual conference in Orlando, FL. For more information, please see

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Math is Storytelling

  1. 1. Mathematics is Storytelling:Bringing Play and a Sense of Narrative to Problem Solving Kassia Omohundro Wedekind
  2. 2. In this presentation…Research on the connection betweenstorytelling/narrative ability and mathematicsChange in practice—move beyond word problems withmath exchanges in kindergartenMathematician statements—teacher language tocommunicate behaviors and practices ofmathematicians to studentsLiving a rich mathematical life—implications forteachers and students
  3. 3. Storytelling and MathDaniela O’Neill, University of WaterlooIs narrative ability important to academicachievement? And, if so, which aspectsof narrative ability matter?
  4. 4. Storytelling and MathEvent ContentConjunction UsePerspective ShiftMental State References
  5. 5. Storytelling and Math"The main activity that prepared thehuman brain for being able to domathematics…was keeping track ofinterpersonal relationships in anincreasingly complex society."(Devlin, 2000: 3)
  6. 6. Storytelling and MathSo, why does this matter, and whatare the implications for instruction? Storytelling Math
  7. 7. Changes in Thinking Mathematize
  8. 8. Changes in Practice How?Reexamine Problem Solving with Young Children
  9. 9. How We ChangeFacilitate problem solving experiencesbased on contextually meaningful andmathematically significant problemsCreate a community in which living a richmathematical life is expected
  10. 10. Word Problems Ana had 10 pencils. She gave 3 pencils to Casey. How many pencils does Ana have now? Katie has 5 shirts. Each shirt has 3 buttons. How manybuttons does Katie have on her shirts?
  11. 11. Math Exchanges1) Short, focused sessions that bring all mathematical minds together2) Responsive to the needs of the specific group of mathematicians3) Designed for meaningful, guided reflection
  12. 12. Counting Collections
  13. 13. Counting Collections
  14. 14. Counting CollectionsA counting collection of elephants on our line-up tape
  15. 15. Counting CollectionsHow many do you think you have? How could you figureit out?How did you keep track of your elephants when youcounted?Look how far your cubes have stretched! I wonder howmany cubes it would take to stretch across the wholetable.Do you think you have more elephants than Kyra? Howdo you know?
  16. 16. The Straws Problem
  17. 17. The Straws Problem
  18. 18. The Straws Problem
  19. 19. The Straws Problem
  20. 20. The Straws Problem
  21. 21. The Straw Problem as a RoutineWe know that yesterday we needed ___ straws forlunchtime. How many straws do you think we will needtoday?Will we need the same number of straws or a differentnumber of straws? Why does the number of strawschange?What if we want to figure out how many napkins weneed? Would that be the same as the number of strawswe need?
  22. 22. Mathematician StatementsMathematicians statements that focus on the structureof different problem types and understanding what isgoing on: "Mathematicians listen to the story and tell it again to figure it out/to figure out the problem." "Mathematicians think about what is happening in the story. This helps them figure out the problem."
  23. 23. Math Exchanges and Imaginative Play Queen of TenIntroduces significance often in our number systemthrough: Counting routines Quick image routines Problem solving
  24. 24. Queen of TenThe Queen of Ten:Broken Wand Routine
  25. 25. Queen of Ten:40th Day Visit
  26. 26. Math Exchanges and Imaginative Play
  27. 27. Gingerbread ManProblem Solving
  28. 28. Understanding 5 and 10 Structure "The gingerbread man wants to cross the river withoutgetting wet and soggy. He needs to jump across ten rocks to cross the river. The rocks looked like this."
  29. 29. Understanding 5 and 10 Structure "He has to jump across ten rocks to get to the other side ofthe river. He started like this. 1, 2, 3, 4. I’m one tired cookie. I’m going to take a nap right here on this rock"
  30. 30. Understanding 5 and 10 Structure"When he wakes up, how many rocks will the gingerbread man need to cross to get to the other side of the river?"
  31. 31. DecomposingTeen Numbers "There are 13 stones. He’s already done 10, so 11, 12, 13"
  32. 32. DecomposingTeen Numbers "Ten stones and three more is thirteen. I just saw 10 and three more."
  33. 33. Trick or Treating Play Guided task that leads into more open mathematical play.
  34. 34. MultiplicationMath Exchange
  35. 35. MultiplicationMath Exchange
  36. 36. MultiplicationMath Exchange "So, how many "5. Here they are: candy corn do 1,2, 1,2, 1,2, 1,2, you need for the 1,2." cookies?"
  37. 37. MultiplicationMath Exchange
  38. 38. Live a RichMathematical Life
  39. 39. Share This Mathematical Life With Our Students
  40. 40. Inspire Their RichMathematical Lives
  41. 41. Imaginative Play
  42. 42. Exploratory Play
  43. 43. Mathematizethe World Around Us
  44. 44. Imagine if, at the end of the school year, all kindergarteners left understanding math as a medium through which to wonder about andinvestigate their world. Imagine if each child left kindergarten with a sense of ownership and agency in the world of mathematics. Imagine if all kindergarteners viewed mathematics as a place for play, creativity, and imagination. Imagine the possibilities for these young mathematicians. Endless.
  45. 45. More on Storytelling — Math ConnectionJulie Rehmeyer’s article, "Good Stories, Good Math"Keith Devlin’s article, "Predicting Math Ability"Daniela’s O’Neill’s paper, "Preschool Children’s Narratives andPerformance on the Peabody Individualized Achievement Test—Revised: Evidence of a Relation Between Early Narrative andLater Mathematical Ability"
  46. 46. Kassia Omohundro Wedekind @kassiaowedekind on Twitter