While understanding mathematics grows increasingly important for students who wish to pursue a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) career, for those who don’t take a natural interest in such subjects, math can be incredibly intimidating. Reasons for this are many and include the promotion of abstract concepts in the classroom and emphasis on memorization as a learning technique. Because mathematical concepts build on one another, if a child falls behind early, it can take them a long time to catch up with the rest of their class.
According to research published in Education Week, mathematics anxiety, the debilitating feeling of tension and anxiety when it comes to solving math problems, begins in kindergarten and affects almost half of elementary school children. The symptoms of this anxiety come in many forms, such as frustration, a lack of engagement, low achievement and negative self-talk. Clearly, traditional forms of mathematics instruction are producing unsatisfactory results. To correct this troubling trend, we must find different and more effective ways of teaching this material.
Using Stories to Teach Mathematics
The act of storytelling, which is as old as the earliest human civilizations, allows us to share information in an effective and memorable way. Because our brains have evolved to intuitively understand the world around us through the power of storytelling, applying this same principle to teaching can have amazing results. While teaching mathematics, using storytelling elements to make numbers less abstract is a great way to both boost classroom engagement and make the subject more inviting.
For example, instead of focusing on memorization and solving math problems, create a story where each number has a real-world equivalent (a piece of candy, an animal, a fruit, etc.) and come up with a scenario involving a conflict your students have to address. As with all stories, the more engaging the conflict, the more interested your students will be in its resolution.
Celebrate National Math Storytelling Day with NIHF
At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we believe in inspiring the next generation of innovators. Through education programs that introduce students to our world-changing NIHF Inductees, we create experiences that encourage them to pursue their STEM dreams. In our Accelerate program modules, Fair Games and Plot Coasters, children are given the opportunity to explore concepts of mathematics and storytelling in unique and exciting ways! To learn more, we invite you to visit our website.