# Integrating Math and Literature in the Elementary Classroom

4-20-2015

Thesis

Honors Thesis

Education

## Abstract

Growing up, I was the student who hated to go to math class. I was not bad at math, I just could not seem to find a way to make it interesting or exciting. I had trouble understanding the purpose of math and how it was applicable to my own life. Word problems were my worst enemy; I appreciated the attempt to make math seem relatable, but never saw the use. Many of these problems involved building or buying something; topics I had no experience with in elementary school. I did not see why I needed to know the exact measurements of my yard, or how much I would save if my favorite cereal was 12% off. Nevertheless, I did my homework, studied for tests, and ended up getting all As and Bs throughout elementary and high school. I could do the math because I memorized the steps and did everything according to the example in the textbook or my notes. I did not comprehend a single step or see the purpose of the problem or equation. Because of this, I could not explain why I could solve the problem or why I did it a certain way. My response when my teacher asked me how I solved a problem was "I followed the steps in the textbook." I knew she was looking for the reason behind each step, but at that point, I could not tell her because i did not know.

It was not until I got to college when I really began to love doing math; I actually looked forward to doing my homework. My first semester I was enrolled in a children's literature class and "Dimensions of Numerical Reasoning" which was the core math class for education majors. I was really struggling in my math class, as most students were; because it had us think about math in a way I had never had to before. When we were given the problem 2 + 2 we were asked to solve then explain why it was equal to 4. I did fine with these problems, but when I was asked to explain more complex problems involving algebra, I was stuck because I could not use the response I used so often in elementary school. Being challenged to think about math in this way was difficult for me and I spent much time trying to figure out each assignment. As I was working on my time unit for my math class I was reading Brian Selznick's (2007) The Invention of Hugo Cabret in my children's lit class. This book focuses on a young boy who winds and fixes clocks. Because of the heavy focus on clocks and time, something clicked with me, and I was suddenly able to relate this book to my math work. I could visualize the illustrations from Hugo while working on my math homework; while reading, I suddenly looked for more ways to relate this to my math. This semester was pivotal in my journey to become a teacher. As I worked through these classes, I was able to make more connections between my math and reading and started to really appreciate the math I was doing.

I attribute my understanding of math to these two courses because by being able to find a connection, I was then able to understand a problem I had no understanding of before. Seeing this understanding stem from a connection I was able to make gave me so much confidence in what I was doing. This confidence actually made me want to do my math homework and see if I could start to think about each problem a little more in hopes of either finding more connections or ways to explain how I was able to solve the problem and complete the work. Because I had this confidence, I was able to look through other problems on various topics and began to piece together all of the purposes behind each specific problem. I had a new level of confidence with math that was shocking to me, and even more surprising to my family who always had the privilege of watching me struggle with math all throughout school. After that semester, the student who hated math as an elementary student had grown to love the subject and longed to take another math class.

Throughout my remaining education classes, I continued to love math and find connections all around me. A majority of my connections came from literature as I was working on assignments for my reading practicum simultaneously with my math practicum. Throughout these classes, I was inspired to find ways to integrate literature into the math curriculum. As I was working on my reading practicum, I would read a book and instantly think "that would be great to try with an early division lesson!" or do a math problem in class and think "this problem relates so well to The Cat in the Hat!" As I had these thoughts, I realized how easy it would be to integrate these two subjects and create lessons based on a particular children's book. Through my practica, I would teach a few lessons a week and began to try and add some literature into each lesson. I began to wonder how I could integrate the curriculum and what I could do as a student teacher to tryout some of the ideas I had been working with through my practicum. As a result of creating this integrated curriculum, I wanted to create a math environment full of literature and connections for students, thus making math a more relatable and enjoyable subject for all students. Through this research, I set out to answer the following questions in regard to an integrated curriculum:

How do teachers incorporate children's literature into math lessons?

How do teachers integrate lessons through children's literature?

COinS