Once upon a time, deep in an enchanted forest, in the inner depths of the castle cellar, there lived a secretive wizard. During the day he supported the kingdom’s wizardry needs, but by night, he was terribly puzzled by an unanswered problem, he was under extreme time pressure, he only had 100 days to solve it. Night by night, week by week, he would spend hours trying different models of fractional and whole numbers to solve his problem….
Just imagine how excited your pupils would be if this was the way we introduced mathematical vocabulary, new concepts and word problems to pupils.
Consider what we know already; the patterns of traditional stories activate our prior knowledge to support learning and reading of new books. Mnemonics support our memory of spelling patterns and rules and songs help us to develop our fluency in number systems, therefore following a story map will develop our oracy and vocabulary in maths. In our Path to Success, this story can be seen as the ‘Hook’ and ‘Experience’. You are giving a purpose to learning the new maths concept and building upon a problem in a more interesting way.
Good mathematical stories usually start with a great ‘hook’. This hook must contain appropriate mathematical vocabulary and allow opportunities for further investigations to take place. For example, if the story above began in the way you see, however the equation linked to factors, then the wizard’s problem may relate to inviting friends to a potion party where he must work out ways to seat them and use the ingredients to make potions. If he has 13 or 17 friends attending, will one always be left out if the recipes, bedrooms and tables always call for divisors of 2, 3 or 4?
After introducing the problem, unpick the language and mathematical concepts with the pupils in story form; begin to map out the problem, drawing the actions and key facts. This will enable the pupils to develop their verbal skills and confidence - this is a way of using oracy to develop conceptual and procedural approaches.
Once pupils have internalised the story and are confident with the mathematical language, by demonstrating an understanding of the mathematical concepts, this is a prime time to move their learning forward through investigative work.
Eventually storytelling in maths will lead to children internalising the language of maths through repetition and apply this skilfully to a range of reasoning problems.
To extend learning, try reinforcing formal methods or develop further opportunities for abstract concepts.
By using stories, we can introduce problems in a much more interesting way and provide a purpose and motivation to help children learn.
Published on 18 December 2019