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Introduction

Throughout this document I will explore the idea of enhancing students mathematical skills
through the use of literature. I will also discuss how the use of literature will enhance
childrens engagement when learning maths. The first part of the assignment will include a
critical review of the effects of mathematics learning through the use of childrens literature. I
will then create an Object by the numbers poster with a number of data facts. A summary
will be written for three of these data facts including how I will utilise each data fact into a
mathematical task.

Discussion of Mathematical Learning through Childrens


Literature
Mathematics is a vital life skill which is taught in all schools and valued highly throughout the
curriculum. This makes it extremely important for teachers to use a range of methods which
engage students and benefit their mathematical learning experience. From experience, many
students can find maths extremely boring and confusing. Due to this students form a negative
attitude about the subject from a young age, and due to this their learning can be impacted
through to the remainder of their schooling years. Commonly held views of mathematics as
boring, useless, and intimidating result from an educational failure to connect mathematics to
the everyday (Bullock 1994) and a different approach to teaching mathematics is required. It
is said that high quality mathematics instruction depends on students' engagement with
meaningful learning tasks (Soh, 2005, p.1) and this means that it is imperative to ensure
students are engaged when teaching mathematics in order for students to achieve successful
results. Cross curricular links are an important part of the curriculum and due to that it is very
beneficial to use childrens literature when teaching students mathematics. Students love
having stories read to them and find this process extremely engaging, hence utilising this
when teaching mathematics serves a very valuable purpose. It can be an extremely valuable
and successful way in which to teach students and it will greatly assist their learning. When
childrens literature and numeracy are connected in an interactive and meaningful way,
students will understand the mathematical concepts readily and will sustain the knowledge
(Shartzer, 2008, p. 650). All students learn differently and employing childrens literature in
the mathematics classroom can spark the imagination of students in ways that traditional
exercises do not (Burns, 2005). The students who have a keen interest in literature are often
the same students who are uninterested in filling out worksheets with sums and struggle with
mathematics. For students who dont enjoy the traditional way that mathematics is taught,
incorporating literature in the teaching process could be highly valuable in increasing these
students enjoyment and achievement in the subject. When using literature in the teaching of
maths, students can be encouraged to think about maths in a different way. They can use

their imagination and think about numbers in a way that they havent before, and can even
be learning about mathematics without knowing it.
English is valued extremely highly within the Australian curriculum and a great focus is placed
on it within classrooms. With the whole language philosophy and literature based language
arts becoming more prevalent, it became evident than integrating math and literature would
be not only exciting, but also a logical union. (Braddon, Hall, Taylor, 1993) Not only will using
literature in order to teach mathematics be beneficial to the process of teaching maths, but it
will also assist students in understanding what is happening within literature. It will do this by
getting students to delve deeper into ideas put forward within the story, and understand
concepts within the book which they might not have before. Students will become familiar
with language related to maths within texts and will learn to identify this which will help them
have a greater understanding of what is happening within literature, and how this can be
related to mathematics. Understanding this language can translate into a better
understanding of math based word problems, and much of the language used will be similar.
Often students struggle to grasp the mathematical concept being put forward within word
problems. With the assistance of stories, illustrations and characters a student is provided
with valuable support which they will find engaging and will assist them in understanding
word problems and what math concept needs to be applied in order to solve the problem
correctly. Books can provide a powerful method for creating a meaningful and engaging
context to initiate
problem-solving activities (Livy, Muir, Marston, 2013) and "the text and visual images can
offer opportunities for problem solving, both individual and collaborative (Marston 2010)
Although many benefits can come from using childrens literature in the teaching of
mathematics, a teacher must be careful not to try and force too much mathematical thinking
into the literacy, otherwise they may take away from the experience of the story. A limitation
of using childrens literature in a mathematics lesson is the potential for teachers to
overemphasise the mathematics whilst unintentionally detracting from the literary essence of
the text (Shih & Giorgis, 2004). The fact that students enjoy stories so much plays a big part
in why using literature in order to teach math is so successful. If a teacher tries to make
literature all about math and loses focus on the actual story, the students will begin to stop
enjoying literature. This will obviously make teaching mathematics with literature a lot less
successful as it will take away the enjoyment and ruin the experience of the story for the
students.
When teaching students mathematics it is extremely important for a teacher to ensure that
the students are engaged and enjoying what theyre doing in order to assist them in reaching
their potential. Students learn best when they are interested in what they are learning, and as
a teacher you must try to ensure that students with all different learning styles are engaged.

Teaching mathematics through the use of literature can provide students with an exciting
cross curricular learning experience that is both engaging and effective. It can allow students
to use their imaginations and teach them valuable problem solving skills which will richly
enhance their mathematical skills. Students are able to use imagery and interesting topics
within literature in order to assist them in understanding mathematic language and terms,
and mathematical concepts. Although using literature can be a highly successful aid when
teaching mathematics, teachers must be careful that they dont spoil the experience of the
story. The fact that students enjoy books so much is why it is such an effective tool in
teaching math, and if the math is emphasised too much, the student may lose enjoyment of
the story, which would destroy the meaning of the whole process.

Object by the Numbers - data facts, prompts and mathematical


exploration
Book details: The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
Suitable for Grade: Prep - 5
Brief description and rationale for the image you have selected for your poster:
For my poster image I have selected to use a tree. Obviously the main focus in the book is a
tree, and a lot of facts which involve numbers can be explored by students. These facts can
provide the basis for mathematic lessons.
Picture of front cover of book

Picture of inside of book

List of Data Facts from poster;


Data Fact #1: Some trees can grow to around 100 metres (328 feet) in height!
Data Fact #2: Trees can live for thousands of years.
Data Fact #3: Trees grow from the top, not from the bottom as is commonly believed. A
branch's location on a tree will only move up the trunk a few inches in 1000 years.
Data Fact #4: Trees receive an estimated 90% of their nutrition from the atmosphere and
only 10% from the soil.
Data Fact #5: There are over 23,000 different kinds of trees in the world.
Data Fact #6: One large tree can lift up to 350 litres of water out of the ground and
discharge it into the air in a day.
Selected Data Facts for further exploration
Data Fact #1: Some trees can grow to around 100 metres (328 feet) in height!
Prompts to develop childrens mathematical thinking:
1. How many centimetres can some trees grow to?
2. How many of you would it take to get to 100 meters tall?
A childs anticipated responses to the prompts:
Prompt 1 - Anticipated response:
Considering that there are 100 centimetres in a metre, in order to find out how many centimetres some
trees can grow to you must times 100 by 100. Some trees can grow to 10 000cm.
Prompt 2 - Anticipated response:
Say Im about 1.5 metres tall. To find out how many of me it would take to reach the height of a 100
metre tree, I would need to divide 100 by 1.5. The answer is 75.

Mathematics explored in the prompts:


These prompts explore childrens understanding of size. It also explores how well the students
understand how to convert different units of measurement, in this case meters and
centimetres. It also explores the students understand and skills in multiplication and division.
AusVELS connection and code:
Year 4: Compare objects using familiar metric units of area and volume (ACMMG290)

Year 4:

Investigate equivalent fractions used in contexts (ACMNA077)

Year 4: Develop efficient mental and written strategies and use appropriate digital technologies for multiplication and for division
where there is no remainder (ACMNA076)

Data Fact #2: Trees can live for thousands of years.


Prompts to develop childrens mathematical thinking:
1. How many lifetimes could you live in the lifespan of one tree?

2. If a tree grows 80 metres tall and lives for 1000 years, on average how much would the
tree grow each year?
A childs anticipated responses to the prompts:
Prompt 1 - Anticipated response:
Say I live to about 90 and tree lives to 2000 years. I would have to divide my 90 years into the trees
2000 years. I would have to live just over 22 lifetimes to live the same amount of time as the tree!
Prompt 2 - Anticipated response:
If a tree grew to 80 metres tall in 1000 years, to find out how much it was growing each year you would
divide 80 by 100. The tree would grow about 0.08 metres per year. When converted to centimetres
thats only 8 centimetres a year.

Mathematics explored in the prompts:


These prompts explore the students understanding in division and how to use it appropriately.
They explore the students knowledge about time, height and converting units of
measurement as well.
AusVELS connection and code:

Year 4: Investigate equivalent fractions used in contexts (ACMNA077)


Year 4: Convert between units of time (ACMMG085)
Year 4: Develop efficient mental and written strategies and use appropriate digital technologies for multiplication and for division
where there is no remainder (ACMNA076)

Data Fact #3: One large tree can lift up to 350 litres of water out of the ground and
discharge it into the air in a day.
Prompts to develop childrens mathematical thinking:
1. How many 2 litre bottles of milk would you have to pour onto the ground to get 350 litres of
liquid?
2. How many litres of water per hour is a tree lifting up?

A childs anticipated responses to the prompts:


Prompt 1 - Anticipated response:
To find out how many two litre bottles of milk to pour out, you can divide 350 by two which would equal
175 bottles.
Prompt 2 - Anticipated response:
Considering that there are 24 hours in a day, in order to find out how many litres of water the tree
would take out of the ground per hour you would divide 350 by 24. The answer is 14.58, or about 14
and a half litres an hour.

Mathematics explored in the prompts:

These prompts allow students to explore the concept of units of measurement, the case here
being litres. Students are also given the opportunity to identify the correct way in which to use
division, and where it should be used to find out answers.

AusVELS connection and code:

Year 4: Investigate equivalent fractions used in contexts (ACMNA077)


Year 4: Develop efficient mental and written strategies and use appropriate digital technologies for multiplication and for division
where there is no remainder (ACMNA076)
Year 4: Recognise that the place
value system can be extended to tenths and hundredths. Make connections between fractions and decimal notation (ACMNA079)

References
Suh. J (2005), Third graders' mathematics achievement and representation preference
using virtual and physical manipulatives for adding fractions and balancing equations,
retrieved 18/04/2014, < http://mason.gmu.edu/~jsuh4/dissertation%20final.pdf>
Burns, M (2005), 3 lessons by Marilyn Burns: Using storybooks to teach math, Scholastic
Instructor. April, 27-30.
Braddon. K, Hall. N, Taylor. D, 1993, Maths through Childrens Literature, retrieved
19/04/2014, < http://books.google.com.au/books?
hl=en&lr=&id=QwSJcOH1wqAC&oi=fnd&pg=PR13&dq=children+literature+in+mathematics
+scholarly&ots=Eu7pg2SOzx&sig=fp2BJuCXLHu38oRV6j8EajPSCJM#v=onepage&q=children
%20literature%20in%20mathematics%20scholarly&f=false>
Marston. JL, Muir. T, Livy. S 2013, Can we really count on Frank?, Teaching children
mathematics, vol. 19, no. 7, pp.441
Marston, Jennifer L. 2010. "Developing a Framework for the Selection of Picture Books to
Promote Early Mathematical Development." In Shaping the Future of Mathematics Education:
Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of
Australasia (MERGA), edited by Len Sparrow, Barry Kissane, and Chris Hurst, pp. 383-90.
Fremantle, WA: MERGA.
Shih, J., & Giorgis, C. (2004). Building the mathematics and literature connections through
childrens responses. Teaching Children Mathematics, 10(6), 328-333.
Shatzer, J. (2008). Picture book power: Connecting childrens literature and mathematics.
The Reading Teacher, 61(8), 649-653.

Bullock, J. 1994, Literacy in the language of mathematics, The American Mathematical Monthly 101
(8): 745-743.