Incorporating Children’s Literature into Mathematics Instruction

By Madeline Bailey / Texas A&M University

In the world of present day education, incorporating reading and writing into classrooms of every grade level and discipline has become the norm, often to the chagrin of upper level STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teachers who do not see these concepts as particularly relevant to their subject. However, despite the initial mixed sentiments, it has become clear that not only does the integration of reading and writing, specifically in the form of children’s literature, positively impact students’ comprehension, but also their retention and overall attitudes towards the subject.

Benefits of Incorporation

Over the course of several years of study, the incorporation of children’s literature into the math classroom has been found to markedly improve student performance in several areas, the most important of which being comprehension and retention (Mink &Fraser, 2005). By offering mathematical vocabulary and ideas in an understandable and developmentally appropriate format, children’s books allow students the opportunity to better understand and retain abstract mathematical concepts without being overwhelmed (Padula, 2004).

Comprehension of Mathematical Content

For generations, “traditional” mathematics instruction was the norm in classrooms across the United States (Mattone, 2007). Students were shown a series of steps that they were to use to solve a given problem, and they were expected to repeat these steps until the problem could be solved almost mechanically. This method in no way presented mathematical ideas as particularly relevant or understandable to students. However, in modern mathematics classrooms, the integration of children’s literature is revitalizing math education.

In order to use children’s books to their fullest mathematical potential, teachers must make their content relevant and meaningful to their students. For example, using a math fiction book as an introduction to a specific concept, paired with a classroom discussion to explain the concept and a follow-up activity emphasizing the mathematical content, students are exposed to the same idea several times in a variety of ways.

Retention of Mathematical Content

Not only are children’s books familiar to students, they are also much more appealing than say, a math textbook. Using children’s literature in math classrooms has been found to not only improve student performance, but attitudes towards math as well (Mink & Fraser, 2005). This integration encourages the students to be interested and excited about learning math, which makes them far more likely to understand, apply, and retain the information (Mink & Fraser, 2005)


The most damaging mindset when teaching mathematics revolves around students asking when they will ever use math in their daily lives. The only way to overcome this increasingly prevalent idea is to consistently demonstrate how math is a relevant and important part of life for everyone everywhere.

Encouraging students to read self-selected texts and find embedded math ideas is another way to enhance math instruction. When students see the use of math in situations that they can relate to, they are better able to understand not only the usefulness, but necessity of math in everyday life.

Recommendations for Teachers
  1. Choose books that are appropriate and relevant to students.
  2. Encourage math-based conversations and the use of mathematics as a means of communication.
  3. Encourage discussion of mathematical concepts and allow students to find the explanations that make the most sense to them.
  4. Integrate self-selected literature to show that math is universal as well as useful.
  5. Design appropriate extension activities that compliment both the included texts and core math concepts.

Overall, the effective incorporation of children’s literature into the mathematics classroom has been proven to aid in students’ comprehension and retention of math concepts, regardless of whether or not the text is mathematically focused. Children’s books provide a familiar, unintimidating format for students to be exposed to both concrete and abstract ideas, thinking, and patterns. The context of a story also encourages connections between the underlying mathematical ideas and the real world, emphasizing the fact that math is a fundamental component of everyday life. Finally, no literature-based math lesson is complete without an appropriate extension or follow-up activity. These activities serve to further explain and repeat the concepts introduced in the text, while giving students the opportunity to apply them and demonstrate mastery.

Re-fusion of Music to STEM Education

By Azam Shaghahgi for STEM Magazine


Music the aesthetic of rhythms, is a blend of expression of feelings, art, skill and math. Pythagoras explains the relations between the math and music: “There geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.”

Redefining music in the “M” in S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is easier to understand the medium of the intervals between notes and derived musical tones from geometrical patterns, mathematicians have linked music to numbers.”

The young Canadian female model-turned DJ player Eva Shaw explains the distinctive

correlations between music, math and science as “ineluctable”.


Azam Shaghaghi: Would you describe the vibe of music writing?

Eva Shaw:

When writing music, you find a specific pattern of notes that when they’re put together, create a sound you like.  You might be influenced by trends in music in chord structure and sound in general.  I think I use math without being conscious of it. Depending on the feeling you’re trying to achieve with a song, you can adjust the tempo, pitch, structure, and chord progressions to achieve the vibe you want. There’s a correlation in measurement of time and frequency. There’s always a certain beat count, rhythm and structure. I actually think structure is one of the most important features in a song that you may not necessarily consider as a listener. Proper order and repetition is part of most pop music.


Eva found her art and music talent at her early 17th. The urge to create the music, mixing the rhythms and feelings, she explains. “The musical scale is related to math, of course.  The distance between notes (pitch) is the way of dividing up the scale. Rythym is a way of dividing up time. Each scale repeats musical intervals , normally after each octave. Betweens octaves, there is a frequency range (this varies depending on the note).”

Making music for a living, she obtained a residency at the Hakkasan nightclub in Las Vegas after it opened in 2013 and has preferred at many music festivals and slew of other venues all over the world; but she believes she would be a scientist if she was not a DJ player.


How do you relate music to science?

Eva Shaw:

I think music is related to our biology as well. Certain rhythms, beats and sounds make us feel specific ways. I can relate a heart beat to a music beat and I think your body has a natural rhythm.  When you hear a beat, you feel it too. You can also physically feel certain frequencies but not necessarily hear them. We use this knowledge for mixing songs; cutting and boosting specific frequencies.

You can actually see music visually in wave forms and graph out sounds and music. A lot of musicians can tell by looking at a wave form what it sounds like. When producing music, I also create sounds using synthesizers. You can change the way something sounds by adjusting the wave forms within the synthesizer.


How do you see technology has impacted the music industry?

Eva Shaw:

Technology has made music more accessible to people who either want to create it, buy it and/or listen to it. You can upload your own compositions to websites such as Soundcloud, and you can just as easily find and stream music from artists. I think there are lots of benefits to technology and music. But, I also wonder if perhaps it takes away some of the value of people’s relationship to music. There was a certain excitement about going to a CD store (or record store) and finding that physical disc. Record labels used to really “break” (introduce an artist to the public) whereas now an artist has the ability to “break” themselves. I think with the growth of technology, artist’s music can get lost in the shuffle. Record labels need to find new and creative ways to identify new artists and work with the new and changing technology.


Many from science and also music field such as “The Boards of Canada” have called “Music is Math” what do you think of that?

Eva Shaw:

The relationship between music and math and science has definitely existed for a long time . Even Beethoven, who famously went deaf , continued to make music.  We can guess it was probably a combination of hearing the notes in his mind, musical structure he’d learned and maybe feeling the pulses. It’s funny because I was never interested in math in school and I think it’s because I was never taught to connect it with human things like music and art. I think if it’s taught with examples that one can use in real life such as examples in music, kids in school will be more open and interested to learn. If someone had told me, “maybe you will become a musician or a music producer, and this information will help you in your future”, I would have been  more interested. I was always interested in science,  specifically biology and the human body. I am the type of person who goes by feeling, a lot of the time. If I think something sounds , looks or feels right, I go with it. You can’t always find a formula for that.

Home Visits With a STEM Twist

By Brenda Iasevoli


Research shows that home visits reduce absences and improve test scores and school climate, but what if they could also spark an interest in the science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, fields? That’s the question the college of education at Sacramento State University set out to answer when it began training in home visits for math and science teacher candidates.

These teachers are the key to opening up STEM fields to lower-income students and students of color, said Deidre B. Sessoms, a professor in the college of education at Sacramento State, where all candidates get their training in high-needs districts, including Sacramento City Unified, San Juan, and Elk Grove. “We don’t have enough students of color going into the STEM field and we have a hard time keeping girls and girls of color interested in math and science,” said Sessoms. “So while we want all of our students to have this training, it is especially important for our math and science teachers.”


Eyes on the Goal

It’s unusual for a school of education to provide home-visit training for its candidates, but science teacher Jennifer Clemens and physical education instructor LuTisha Stockdale bet the investment will pay off. “The earlier teachers try this in their careers, the better,” said Clemens. “It helps to just jump in, shadow teachers, and see how the whole conversation works. You’ve got to take away the mystery and fear early on.”

“Parents tend to be a bit hesitant or unsure about how to act around a teacher, but home visits help to break down that barrier,” she said. “The visits help to show that you are not such a scary person. It’s more about, ‘I’ve got the kids at school and you’ve got them at home and we should be working together.'”


STEM for All

As a student teacher, Endean builds relationships with her students and families by going to high school sporting events, and the personal knowledge she has gained has come in handy in the classroom. She once explained arcs to her soccer-playing students by reminding them about what they do when they make a penalty kick. “You have to think about where you kick the ball from with your foot to make sure you get it over or around the goalie,” she explained. “How hard do you have to kick the ball?” When they answered “pretty hard,” she told them that’s the “initial velocity.”

Endean’s students, the majority of whom are black and Hispanic, will dismiss certain jobs, she said, mainly because they don’t see other people like them in the field. So she has decided she will use her own story as an example when she visits her students’ homes next year. “I’m a woman in a STEM field,” she said. “I have a degree in astronomy and math, with a focus in physics. It’s not common for a woman to be in these fields, but here I am.”


Dreams for the Future

Training STEM teachers in home visits will help to broaden their impact, according to Steve Sheldon, an associate professor in the school of education at Johns Hopkins University. He has done research on home visits in Washington, D.C., and is now doing a national study of the impact of home visits nationwide for Parent Teacher Home Visits.

But math and science teachers should be careful not to take STEM promotion too far, warned Clemens, the science teacher at Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions High School. She thinks the benefits of careers in science and other fields should come out naturally through a conversation about the hopes and dreams students and parents have for the future.