Using Stories to Teach Mathematical Concepts

A person writing math formulae on a blackboard

Often, young students face difficulty in understanding abstract mathematical concepts. It causes teachers to look for ways to facilitate the students in understanding them. Researchers, Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde, in their 1998 study, recommended that students narrativize mathematical ideas to understand the concepts deeply. Here are three ways how stories can help teach mathematical concepts to kids.

Understand the Number Line

If you want your child to succeed in math, they must have a firm hold of the number line. While many people think that the number line is simply about counting, it’s not. It’s about spatial relationships and sequence.

Sequence is fed into our lives through books, mainly because language is sequential. However, beyond letting the children read, teachers can use stories that have a strong sequence to leverage their students’ number line skills.

Strengthening the Language of Number Line

Using Wednesday, an instructor can ask their students questions with an emphasis on the sequence, like:

  • What comes two days after Wednesday?
  • What comes eight days before Wednesday?
  • Is there a similarity in both these questions?

A teacher teaching her online math class

Converting Numbers to Fraction

As an adult, you may know that four oranges on a couch, when moved to the table, will stay four oranges. But a child won’t understand number conservation like this.

Picture books allow children to learn number conservation quickly. Anno’s Counting Book is a fantastic resource to help your child learn this. It helps them count and keep track of the objects as they’re moved around the space. You can ask questions like, “I see that the oranges have moved. How many oranges do you see now? Are they still four? Let’s count!”

For kids who can identify number conservation, you can try to add fraction jargon in your sentences to make the situation complex. For instance, you can say, “Two-thirds of the oranges are on the right side of the table. Where is the remaining one-third of them?”

Strengthen Counting Skills

Did you know that a child’s counting skills can predict if they will be high achievers in adulthood? People who learn to count well in their early years have the edge over others when it comes to mathematical understanding.

A playful way to combine math and literacy is by counting books for children they can relate to. They can include counting animals, days of the week, pair of colors, etc.

Books that allow children to write in, color, and read are ideal for helping children learn numeracy skills. If you can add terms like ‘altogether’ and ‘whole,’ it will help them identify when they have to add the numbers – enabling them to move further from simple counting.

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