This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Gracie Mata

As a third grade bilingual teacher, I have found that it can be extremely difficult for bilingual students to grasp several mathematical concepts without the use of visual aids. Recently I stumbled across a series of books named MATH START written by Stuart J. Murphy which provide students with realistic life stories and good visual support for math concepts. His goal throughout these books is to provide visual learning strategies that can be used to show how something works, demonstrate academic ideas, and teach new concepts.

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These stories combine math concepts along with the visualization needed to help students understand and become more fluent in mathematics.   The combination of math and text allow them to form a connection to the real world and make their learning relevant. These books produce a balance between the math and the story, providing visual and text.

As an introduction to a new math concept I have incorporated many of these books into my math lessons. To begin a math lesson I scan the book and create a flipchart, incorporating questions in between slides to help create discussion. This also allows it to become more interactive for the students. Some of the most favorable books I’ve used in my class are Probably Pistachio, Racing Around, and Betcha!

A difficult concept for students to grasp is estimation, so the book BETCHA is a great way for students to understand how the concept is used in real life situations that require estimation. The book is about a boy who wants to win tickets to an event but has to guess how many jellybeans are in a bottle, so he estimates approximately how many rows of jellybeans there are by how many in each row and estimates correctly.

Another favorite is Probably Pistachio which shows probability; this book can also be used to teach predicting outcomes. This book really targets the vocabulary in the lesson and uses it repeatedly in content; this is a great method when teaching ELL’s a new concept.

The books are well written in the way that the math content does not interfere or overpowers the story, and that the story doesn’t control the topic to where the math gets lost.

Visual Learning is a method that allows students to fully engage in math through stories that use illustrations, diagrams, graphs, symbols and other visual models.   It can also be used to make sense of difficult information quickly.   It is said that visual learning is an essential part of our communication process and through communication many things can be better explained and understood.

This series can be a possible tool for all students struggling to make a connection with math concepts. The visual aids used in these books and in the story lines are inspired to cater to the needs and likes of children.

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