Mathematical thinking is frequently seen by many educators as a challenging content to teach and for students to grasp. This school of thought often comes from early experiences, which may not have been positive. But could you imagine, if you would give a child a book to enhance his/her development of mathematical concepts and skills? Perhaps the abstractness of mathematical concepts could be conceptualized for the youngest of learners. Our experience with integrating reading and math have convinced us if we teach math skills and concepts using children’s favorite books, we can help even the most reluctant learner to engage in and learn from their explorations and experiences with math concepts and skills. The notion of using an integrated reading and math approach is not a new approach. We believe literature and math instruction should be intermingled. In some important ways, learning to read and learning math are different. However, conceptualizing mathematical thinking through the use of age appropriate quality children’s literature allows of productive experiences that enhance the mastery of mathematical skills and concepts. Beyond the rational of theoretical support, we needed to figure out the conditions for making the integration of reading and math work. We developed guidelines for selecting books, concluding that minimally the books must allow us to: · Make linkages to our student’s background knowledge; · Bridge abstract knowledge to concrete knowledge; · Apply new knowledge to real world situations. Mindful of our guidelines for selecting books, we generated a list of timeless classics; we include two selects and activities that we have used successfully to teach mathematical skills and concepts. *Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman Make spiders and have students number the legs on the spiders. Allow children to count (by two’s) the legs on the spider. Push the math concepts of the book forward by providing coins from the U.S and Trinidad so that students can compare the coins and then use them to purchase the spiders made by the class. *All by Myself by Mercer Mayer Using ordinal numbers, recount the sequence of events of the book. Have children use teddy bear cookies as counters to vote on the kind of juice they want to have with their cookies for snack. Reinforcing the main idea of the book, make a graph to show the number of students who have little sisters, little brothers, or neither. The activities above can be used with a variety of books and adapted for use with children from pre-K through grade 2. The main point, if early childhood educators use books that are carefully selected and pre-examined for the value in teaching mathematical concepts and skills, the children will be motivated to engage productively in learning. They will ask more questions, make more requests, and become involved in more useful learning experiences than we might otherwise imagine, just as mouse did when he was given a cookie.
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