Dr. Ann Wheeler and Prof. Winifred Mallam (Texas Woman’s University) put together this blog post to summarize some of the key findings from their research article entitled ‘Examining type and quality of preservice teachers’ lessons based on children’s literature’ which has recently been published in the International Journal on Teaching and Learning Mathematics journal. We hope you will find their blog post interesting and feel free to share it on social media.
Using strategies of interdisciplinary lessons with university preservice mathematics teachers (UPMTs) can often enliven lessons in ways that UPMTs oftentimes do not expect. In our mathematics education classes, we engage our UMPTs through children’s literature-based mathematics lesson activities. One such lesson activity was having UMPTs who are preparing to teach in the elementary or middle school classroom create mathematics lessons based on popular children’s literature. The literature did not have a mathematics theme but our UPMTs developed a mathematics activity incorporating the theme, plot, and or characters in the book. (For complete details on the research-based project, see Wheeler and Mallam (2020)). University faculty can view the activity and replicate it with their UPMTs. Elementary and middle school classroom teachers can view the literature and lessons and modify them to meet the mathematical needs of their K-8 students (5-14 year olds).
How did we design our research?
Sixty UPMTs created 51 lesson activities. Six of the lesson activities were excluded because they did not focus on children’s literature, omitted a middle school Common Core State Standard for Mathematics (CCSSM), or did not include a children’s literature-based mathematics activity. This resulted in 45 lesson activities based on 43 sources of children’s literature. Literature chosen ranged from classics written by Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss to new favorites from Peter H. Reynolds and Mo Willems. The UPMTs were enrolled in an undergraduate mathematics content and pedagogy course at a university in the south central U.S.A. They were to select children’s literature that did not already have an explicit mathematics theme to demonstrate that any children’s literature could potentially be used for elementary or middle school mathematics instruction.
After submissions were received, we coded UPMTs’ work based on the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) (2010) used, as well as what classification in Stein et al.’s (2000) Task Analysis Guide (TAG) each lesson fit. TAG includes four categories: Doing mathematics, Procedure with Connections, Procedures without Connections, and Memorization. The first two categories are the highest-level cognitive demand categories. See Table 1 for a list of books and lesson topics.
What did our research find?
Through our research, we found that preservice teachers were able to create lessons of the four different TAG (Stein et al., 2000) classifications: Doing Mathematics, Procedures with Connections, Procedures without Connections, and Memorization. With our research, we found most preservice teachers created Procedures with Connections lessons, and most created geometry-based lessons.
Let’s look at a couple of the most common lesson types: Procedures with Connections tasks. One such lesson was using the book entitled Don’t Throw It to Mo! by David A. Adler. In this story, Mo is small but loves American football. He is finally put in during an American football game and wins the game for his team! For the UPMT created lesson, students would create a paper American football and punt it 10 times. Data would be collected after each punt. Using the collected data, students would determine the mean, median, and mode. If students are more familiar with soccer, they could create a paper soccer ball, calculate the distance the soccer ball travels during a corner kick and use this data to determine the statistical terms.
Another example of a Procedures with Connections lesson was the lesson using the book entitled Stars by Mary Lyn Ray. In this story, the reader learns all about different types of stars, whether actual stars in the sky or star-shaped objects. In the UPMT mathematics lesson, students are to create a book of star transformations, where students define each of the transformations and then plot given points to create stars that would be dilated, translated, reflected, and/or rotated based on given instructions.
What this means for other teacher and classroom educators
Through creating lessons based on popular children’s literature, teacher educators can show their UPMTs that they can create engaging mathematics lessons using stories their students are familiar with in today’s society.
In addition, classroom teachers can utilize children’s books in ways they may not have tried in the past. Students can become engaged when they know that their mathematics lesson is now tied to one of their favorite books. As a kind of classroom mathematics activity exchange, teachers can even have their students select a book, create a mathematics lesson, and then have another class work through the mathematics! When students are finished, they can share their work with the original classes to see what results they obtain.
Adler, D. (2016). Don’t throw it to Mo. Penguin Young Readers.
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers (2010). Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_Math%20Standards.pdf
Ray, M. L. (2011). Stars. Beach Lane Books.
Stein, M. K., Smith, M. S., Henningsen, M., & Silver, E. A. (2000). Implementing standards-based mathematics instruction: A casebook for professional development. Teachers College Press.
Wheeler, A., & Mallam, W. (2020). Examining type and quality of preservice teachers' lessons based on children's literature. International Journal on Teaching and Learning Mathematics, 3(1), 1-11. doi: 10.18860/ijtlm. v3i1.9206
About the authors
Dr. Ann Wheeler is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics & Computer Science at Texas Woman’s University. Her research focuses on using technology and children’s literature in the mathematics classroom.
Prof. Winifred Mallam is a Professor in the Department of Mathematics & Computer Science at Texas Woman’s University. Her research interests include teacher efficacy and the development of effective instructional strategies for the teaching and learning of K-16 mathematics, especially incorporating children's literature and problem solving.