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Mathematizing Children’s Literature To Spark Connections, Joy, and Wonder, Through Read-Alouds and Discussion

Categories: Authors for Access, Books, Authors, & Movies, Curriculum & Access, Early Literacy, Education & Teaching, Educators, Reading Strategies for K-12, Teacher Best Practices

Making connections between essential early reading skills and mathematical concepts is a wonderful way to engage children while introducing them to the idea that words and numerical expressions have a symbiotic relationship for cross-curricular learning. Each discipline is critical for learning success and information processing. In reading, letters form words that symbolize objects, attributes, or actions. In mathematics, numbers symbolize amounts, patterns, or relationships. 

Creating a Rich Learning Environment

During our Spotlight on Dyslexia 2022, Dr. Antony T. Smith and Dr. Allison Hintz, both associate professors of mathematics education at the University of Washington Bothell, talked with educators about how to create engaging learning experiences through read-alouds and discussions using children’s literature. 

Drs. Smith and Hintz have worked in a wide range of settings from school-based learning experiences to public libraries, to community-based organizations. They co-authored the book, Mathematizing Children’s Literature Sparking Connections, Joy, and Wonder, Through Read-Alouds and Discussion

Student-Centered ApproachAntony T. Smith

Drs. Smith and Hintz are proponents of student-centered or whole child learning, in which teachers use evidence-based reading instruction grounded in the science of reading to develop early reading skills, while deepening knowledge of mathematical concepts and nurturing children’s identities as literacy and mathematical sense-makers. 

Early reading skills include word recognition, language comprehension, decoding, background knowledge, and vocabulary. The professors encourage teacheAllison Hintzrs to use dynamic, interactive read alouds from multicultural children’s literature to incorporate conceptual learning, as well as the application of skill. Read-alouds feature real-world contexts through discussion, input, active listening, and automaticity through repeated readings. 

Recommended Categories of Books

Over years of research, the professors identified children’s literature that provide vibrant opportunities for young learners to notice, wonder, and experience joy in reading mathematics stories through different lenses. They found books where mathematics might appear in a work of children's literature in a way that brings mathematics alive in the stories. 

These types of books generally fall into three categories:

  1. text-dependent books, where the plot and math are central to the story; 

  2. idea-enhancing books, where the story could stand alone without discussing mathematical concepts, but if teachers do, it makes the story more interesting and rewarding; and

  3. illustration-exploring books where visuals enhance the story in a playful context, and help make connections with children’s own lives. This is a kind of story where children “think like a mathematician.” 

Are you ready to expand your instructional approach to empower early learners to think in mathematical ways? 

Register for this lively and informative session, now on-demand. Learn specific book titles recommended by Drs. Smith and Hintz, and delve into modeling stories that can help you better understand the children you learn with and the knowledge they bring from their home communities. Build and strengthen their fundamental reading and mathematics skills, while preparing them to become critical thinkers.  

Learning Ally’s Professional Learning Services are designed to strengthen educator’s instructional capacity, so they can deliver a deeper, richer learning experience and promote better academic outcomes.