Admiring and telling mathematics

At Recreamath we believe that learning math should be fun first. In the previous article, we discovered a new way to get kids more involved in math that consists in making kids discover the beauty of math. What if I told you there are other ways to get children even more involved in early math learning?

Why tell mathematics?

According to Uscianowski (2020), reading stories to children plays a crucial role in developing literacy skills, but that is not all. His research shows that this activity also develops children’s mathematical skills.

First, reading books provides a context for mathematical learning (Ginsburg & Seo, Moyer, van den Heuvel-Panhuizen & van den Boogaard cited in Uscianowski et al., 2020). Contextualising mathematical learning helps to make sense of and show the real utility of these concepts. By bringing meaning to mathematical learning, students, especially those with difficulties, will be more involved in the task as they perceive an important purpose in their lives as students (Theis & Gagnon, 2010). In his 2008 research, Balakrishnan showed that children tend to understand the most complex mathematical concepts in the context of a story and only after participating in activities that support this idea. Therefore, he concludes that stories play an important role in making meaning (Balakrishnan, 2008).

Secondly, parents report engaging more regularly in story-reading activities than in explicit mathematics activities (LeFevre et al. cited in Uscianowski et al., 2020). Therefore, reading mathematical stories would be an excellent way to involve parents in mathematics learning.

Another advantage of storybooks is that they offer several types of mathematical representation, namely text and pictures (Uscianowski et al., 2020). In the case of ebooks, other representations are possible thanks to the integration of videos.

Lastly, mathematical stories allow addressing an often-forgotten ability in mathematics learning, which is imagination. Indeed, a good story will arouse the reader’s emotions and offer them the possibility to use their mind in an experimental way, to activate their emotions, to encourage them to learn mathematical concepts and to have fun at the same time (Balakrishnan, 2008).

How to tell mathematics?

Are you now convinced of the usefulness of stories to approach mathematics, but you don’t know how to do it in practice?

Our Recreamath project provides you with five interactive ebooks in two versions. The first is for 4–5-year-olds, and the second is for 6–7-year-olds.

  • The first ebook focuses on geometric shape recognition by placing pupils in a card game situation.
  • The second ebook introduces the notions of spatial reference and unit of length through a walk in the city.
  • The third ebook focuses on patterns, repetitions of geometric shapes, symmetry and the four seasons through a walk in the forest.
  • The fourth ebook explores geometric shapes and the notion of size through a visit to a mathematical museum.
  • The fifth ebook introduces litres, kilograms and money by going to the supermarket.

You can find them on the project resource page:

Sources :

Theis, L., & Gagnon, N. (2010). Enjeux et limites de la contextualisation en enseignement des mathematiques : points de vue d’une praticienne et d’un chercheur. Archimede, L(4).

Uscianowski, C., Almeda, M. V., & Ginsburg, H. P. (2020). Differences in the complexity of math and literacy questions parents pose during storybook reading. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 50, 40‑50.