With schools in many countries now being shut indefinitely in an effort to stop the coronavirus outbreak, many parents are increasingly worried about what they can do to support their child’s learning at home over the next few weeks and possibly months. One subject in particular that many parents need help with is maths. While some children may have already been given maths worksheets by their teachers to work on, it will likely be a matter of days before they start to lose their interest in having to routinely solve pages and pages of maths problems. Here at

**MathsThroughStories.org**, we believe that the use of storytelling could serve as an effective maths learning strategy while keeping your child firmly engaged in their maths learning. What’s more – this strategy is not limited to just pre-school children, but is applicable to those in primary (elementary) schools and beyond too.

We have previously explained what we mean by maths stories in

Concerning the former, our non-profit

To access these books, you can either purchase them on-line (using platforms like Amazon) or find free videos of people reading many of these books on YouTube. We have partnered up with KidTime StoryTime, a YouTube channel, who works hard to get proper permission from publishers to record videos of them reading various story picture books including the many titles that are also on our Recommendations database. To access these videos by KidTime StoryTime, click

If where you live is not under a lockdown, then you may also find some of our recommended maths story picture books in your local bookstores or public library.

It is also worth briefly noting here that all the maths story picture books on our Recommendations database are in English language. That said, many of these books have also been translated by their publishers to several other languages. If you want to use these maths story picture books in non-English languages, some of them do exist, but you will need to do a bit of detective work on Google to find them or simply directly contact relevant publishers. An example below is of

**Which stories and how to access them?**We have previously explained what we mean by maths stories in

**our earlier blog post**, and how storytelling (particularly the picture book format) could help to enrich maths learning in**another blog post**, so we won’t be repeating them here, though we would encourage you to read these blog posts as well if you have not done so already. The focus of this blog post is more practical in nature, specifically how parents go about choosing which maths story picture books they could use and how to access them.Concerning the former, our non-profit

**MathsThroughStories.org**website contains the world’s largest database of recommendations for maths stories (500+). For your convenience, these recommendations are sorted firstly by maths topics, and then by age groups. You can find our Recommendations page**here**.To access these books, you can either purchase them on-line (using platforms like Amazon) or find free videos of people reading many of these books on YouTube. We have partnered up with KidTime StoryTime, a YouTube channel, who works hard to get proper permission from publishers to record videos of them reading various story picture books including the many titles that are also on our Recommendations database. To access these videos by KidTime StoryTime, click

**here**. There are also several other YouTube videos of people reading maths story picture books. However, as many of them have not sought permission from publishers to record videos of themselves reading these stories in their entirety, we would not be able to officially and publicly recommend them here, but “if you look, you shall find”.If where you live is not under a lockdown, then you may also find some of our recommended maths story picture books in your local bookstores or public library.

It is also worth briefly noting here that all the maths story picture books on our Recommendations database are in English language. That said, many of these books have also been translated by their publishers to several other languages. If you want to use these maths story picture books in non-English languages, some of them do exist, but you will need to do a bit of detective work on Google to find them or simply directly contact relevant publishers. An example below is of

**‘A Mousy Mess’**(Driscoll, 2014) with a maths focus on sorting and classifying skills. The story has been translated to Chinese and Spanish. (We will talk more about this story later in this blog post.)

**How to use stories to enhance your child's maths learning?**

Many well-written maths story picture books can almost “do the teaching” to young readers themselves without the support of teachers and parents. However, if your children are too young to read independently, then of course you will need to support them with the reading if a printed copy of the story books is used. If the YouTube video version is used, then your children can listen to the stories being read to them.

However, you should not limit your role to being just a reader. You can do more to help your child get the most out of their maths stories, for example, by asking a series of questions to draw their attention to the maths elements in the story or by providing resources to facilitate their maths learning based on the story.

- Concerning the former (i.e. asking questions), we would suggest you giving your child an opportunity to read the story purely for pleasure the first time, and then to go over the story again the second time with the
*mathematical lens*on. The kind of questions you can ask your child can be formulated in a way to foster their mathematical reasoning or to extend their mathematical thinking. To illustrate these examples, let’s use the the**‘A Mousy Mess’**story again. This is a story about a young mouse named Albert, his sister Wanda and their friend Leo who come out to play with a child’s toys before Albert accidentally knocks over the toys out of their different containers. Panicked, they quickly think of different ways to put these toys back to their containers so the people would not know that they had been there. Initially, some toys are sorted by their colour, while others are sorted by their shapes and sizes. Then, Albert finds a “big blue round roll-y ball” which can go into more than one pile. This prompts the mice to rethink about how best the toys should be sorted and organised. To foster your child’s mathematical reasoning, you could ask them why the “big blue round roll-y ball” could go into more than one pile or group. To extend their mathematical thinking, you could give them a few other everyday objects for them to try to sort them into one of the groups (or a combination of the groups). Moreover, you could also ask them to come up with their own sorting criteria (e.g. texture, price, etc.). - Concerning the latter (i.e. providing resources), once your child has read or listened to the story, you could then ensure that your child has access to a wide range of everyday objects for them to try to sort them out into groups, that is to provide opportunities for your child to interact with concrete materials to give them a solid foundation that could subsequently lead them to the development of more advanced abstract thinking about classification (e.g. sorting numbers into odd and even numbers; sorting numbers into prime numbers and square numbers; sorting 2D shapes based on the number of vertices [angles], etc.).

The MathsThroughStories.org website has several ideas on what questions could be asked and what resources could be used to maximise maths learning opportunities. These ideas are drawn from story-based maths lessons taught by experienced teachers in different countries around the world and you can access them for free

**here**.

**Catering for the maths learning needs of older students**

*Maths story picture books for older students*

It is crucial to stress that the use of maths story picture books is not for pre-school children only. There are several well written maths story picture books that cater to the learning needs of older primary (elementary) school students and secondary school students, for example, most titles in

**the Sir Cumference series**as well as

**‘What's Your Angle, Pythagoras?’**(Ellis, 2004) and

**‘One Grain of Rice’**(Demi, 1997) which can be used to introduce the Pythagorean theorem and exponential growth respectively. Again, several other age-appropriate titles can be found on our

**Recommendations**page.

*Older students creating their own mini maths story picture books*

Another way to enhance maths learning through storytelling for older students is by getting them to create their own mini maths story picture books (e.g. just 5-10 pages). It is worth highlighting here that we are not talking about just “writing maths stories”, but for them to actually “create maths story picture books”, that is for them to carefully think about how to visually illustrate abstract maths concepts via their page illustrations too. By contextualising and visualising abstract maths concept (i.e. through coming up with a relevant context/storyline and page illustrations respectively), we argue that it could foster students’ conceptual understanding in maths concepts. Just because a child knows, for example, that 5 x 4 equals 20 does not necessarily mean that they

*conceptually*understand what the concept of multiplication means. In one of our on-going research projects, many 8-9 years-old children in the study when asked to come up with a word problem to represent, for example, 5 x 4, they would write something like: “If Jim has 5 sweets, and his mum gives him 4 more sweets, how many sweets does Jim have altogether?” Learning maths in a way that also helps to develop one’s conceptual understanding is thus crucial.

A few simple steps to help your child develop their very own mini maths story picture books:

1) decide on which maths topic to focus on in their story (e.g. multiplication);

2) ask them to think of a problem or a crisis in which having the knowledge of that topic could help to meaningfully solve that problem / crisis;

3) think of settings and characters;

4) think of how that maths topic could be visually represented in their page illustrations; and

5) bring all of these ideas together using our suggested maths story template which is downloadable

**here**.

If you would like to learn more about enhancing maths learning through creating maths story picture books, read another one of our blog posts on this topic

**here**. In 2019, the MathsThroughStories.org project launched the world’s first international maths story writing competition for young maths learners, and you can find examples of winning and shortlisted maths story picture books from the 2019 competition

**here**. One particular example of maths story picture books we like from the 2019 competition is by Harriet, an 11-years-old pupil from the UK, and her story is titled

*. You can read her story*

**'Mindfulness through Maths'****here**. (Details of the 2020 competition can be found

**here**.)

**Final words**

We hope you find this blog post useful in giving you some ideas of how to enrich your child’s maths learning at home. Of course, we do not suggest that what we have recommended should be the only thing your child do to enhance their maths learning. What we simply argue for here is that instead of just letting your child routinely solving pages and pages of maths worksheets mindlessly, let’s balance their diet by giving them something different, cross curricular, effective and engaging as well.

If you do decide to use storytelling to enhance your child's maths learning at home, please share your experience with us on social media by, for example, tagging us

**@MathsStories**on

**@MathsThroughStories**on

To learn more about our

**MathsThroughStories.org**initiative, please take time to explore our website or watch

**this video**.

We should be grateful if you could help share this blog post with other parents on social media!

About the authorDr. Natthapoj Vincent Trakulphadetkrai is a Lecturer in Primary Mathematics Education at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education (UK), and founder of MathsThroughStories.org. His website is Natthapoj.org, and he tweets at @NatthapojVinceT. |