Mathematics and Literature

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Students will be able to discuss the math they "see" in a piece of literature.

Big Idea

Students love to talk about what they read. Use literature to begin growing mathematical thinkers and communicators.

Literature in Math

25 minutes

One of my favorite activities is to pull out my math book box from the classroom library.  If you don't have something like this, you may ask your librarian to pull books from your media center.  

I begin the lesson by reading a few pages of one of the books from the box and simply ask the students, "What math do you see?" "Turn and tell your partner."  I think it is important for students to see that math is everywhere, not only in a math text with algorithms and problems to solve. Reading these books and hunting for math is a sure fire way to engage students as lifelong mathematicians.  

Students, today I would like you to choose a book from the math literature box and enjoy reading it silently to yourself or with one partner.  I will ask you later to share what math you see in the book. Some of them are tricky, so read and look carefully!  Later in the year, you will be journaling about these wonderful stories. Also, remember, as you finish work in our classroom, these books are always available to read!

While students are reading and exploring, I will move around the room and engage in conversations with them.  As this is the start of the year, I find out a great deal of important information about my students as math learners by listening to their thinking, observations, and even noticing their level of excitement. It is like taking a math inventory!

This student worked with me to dig deeper and I found an opportunity to "on the spot" teaching of ordinal numbers!


This video shows that not all math is apparent.  This student needed some prompting to look in a different way.  There is much more math than we even got to in this session.


10 minutes

To close this session, I ask students to journal about a book they enjoyed and to give examples of what math they noticed.  Some of the books, such as One White Sail were not as clearly math related as others. Writing about the struggle of this activity is just as important as the actual reading of the books.