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May 24, 2016
Reading Interactive Math Storybooks
Herbert Ginsburg, Colleen Uscianowski, Victoria Almeda, Cassie Freeman
FINE Newsletter, Volume VIII, Issue 2
Formula for Success: Engaging Families in Early Math Learning
Voices From the Field
Parents and their children often read together, bonding as they explore reality and fiction, the everyday and the fantastic. Children can learn about nature, animals, monsters, trucks, letters, and words. Books can also help children learn about different math topics, including number, operations, shape, space, and measurement. Book reading is a safe way for parents anxious about math to engage their children in a warm, unpressured math activity, and for both to learn that math can be fascinating and a source of intellectual excitement.
We like to think about three categories of math books:
Good books, implicitly or explicitly, can cultivate an interest in reading and in math. While reading, parents can engage their children in stimulating math discussions. “Which bed is smallest? Why do you think it belongs to Baby Bear?” Parents can use storybooks to engage their children in thinking and talking about math.
A new kind of book category: interactive storybooks
We have been working with a relatively new kind of book, the interactive storybook, which resides on a touchscreen device (a powerful computer) like an iPad. Our goal was to create exciting stories that explicitly involve math ideas and encourage productive interactions among child, parent, and book. Interactive math storybooks can help the child to understand the math and the parent to appreciate and foster the child’s mathematical thinking.
|Figure 1: A scene from Monster Music Factory, an interactive storybook that promotes mathematical concepts.|
What we’re learning
We are conducting several kinds of research to understand how parents and children behave when they read interactive math storybooks. We observe parents reading in order to identify the useful things they say and do to help their children learn the math in the story. We observe children to learn whether they are engaged in the story, how they respond to assistance, and whether they in fact learn math. Here are some effective strategies we’ve seen parents use:
Math books vary in quality. Some are dull, with poor illustrations and uninspiring prose. If the book is not interesting, don’t read it, even if it seems to have math content. Instead enjoy an exciting book in all its aspects, math and other. By spending time immersed in good books, your child can learn to read and to do math, too.
About the Authors:
Herbert Ginsburg is Professor of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. His work focuses on the development of mathematical thinking in young children. He is currently engaged in development and evaluation of math storybooks
Colleen Uscianowski is a PhD student in Cognitive Studies in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She was formerly a special education teacher and adjunct lecturer at Hunter College. She conducts research on early childhood math education and leads professional development workshops for teachers and principals that focus on improving math instruction for at-risk students.
Victoria Almeda is a PhD student in Cognitive Studies in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research interests include early mathematics education and learning analytics.
Cassie Freeman is a post-doctoral researcher in the Human Development department at Teachers College, Columbia University. She designs and researches professional development and school change initiatives, focused on mathematics teaching and learning.
This resource is part of the May 2016 FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family engagement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the archives of past issues, please visit www.hfrp.org/FINENewsletter. To subscribe to the FINE Newsletter, please visit our subscription center.