Highlighting Ideas from Mathematizing Children’s Literature: Sparking Connections, Joy, and Wonder Through Read-Alouds and Discussion by Allison Hintz and Antony T. Smith
The Spark of an Idea
Allison Hintz and Antony T. Smith, both former classroom teachers and current education professors at the University of Washington-Bothell, discovered their mutual love of children’s literature and listening to children’s thinking by popping into each other’s across-the-hall offices and swapping favorite children’s books.
They thumbed through stories and were excited to discover that they noticed and wondered about different things in illustrations and words! While Allison tended to focus on mathematical ideas within books, Tony leaned towards literacy-focused ideas. They soon began to explore these two perspectives together in classrooms, facilitating discussions alongside classroom teachers, with young readers and mathematicians. As they did this work, they began to dig deeply into their essential question:
What would happen if we approached any story with a math lens?
Open Notice and Wonder Read-Alouds
In their brand-new book, Mathematizing Children’s Literature, Allison and Tony discuss three kinds of read-aloud in which we might engage--Notice and Wonder, Math Lens, and Story Explore--but they suggest starting with Notice and Wonder because it provides an open space to dig into children’s ideas and questions.
As you begin a Notice and Wonder read-aloud of a picture book, Allison and Tony suggest spending a bit of time discussing what those words “notice” and “wonder” mean and some ways students might share their thoughts and curiosities. You might consider creating a chart with students like the one below from their book.
Allison and Tony share a story from a first-grade class engaged in a read-aloud of Last Stop On Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. The teacher, Ms. Hadreas, chose a few stopping points at which she invited students to talk about “What do you notice?” and “What do you wonder?”. Really slowing down at various points of the story to give students opportunities to notice and wonder about big ideas and small details of the book gave Ms. Hadreas a sense of children’s understanding and curiosities.
Here you can see both Ms. Hadreas’ planning notes for the read aloud and her students’ ideas, which she charted as they talked. While many of noticings and wonders were not overtly mathematical, Ms. Hadreas sensed that her students’ interest in noticing details about the many characters throughout the book might lead to interesting counting-focused work in a later read of the book.
Read it Again!
After an Open Notice and Wonder read-aloud of a book, teachers often return to particular pages, illustrations, or ideas within the story to dig into focused literacy or math ideas with their students. On a subsequent read of Last Stop on Market Street, Ms. Hadreas chose to dig into the theme of community and what her students had noticed about the many different people that main characters CJ and Nana meet throughout their day.
The first graders were full of ideas for counting the people in CJ’s community. Some used tally marks or ten frames as they revisited the pages of the book, while others wrote a long string of numbers to count each person. They brought up wonderings like “Does the dog count?” and what to do if a character appeared on multiple pages of the book.
Returning to the Big Ideas
Through classroom vignettes, plannings guides, and countless picture book suggestions, Mathematizing Children’s Literature shows us how reading aloud with both math and literacy in mind can deepen children’s understandings, spark lively classroom discussions, and give us, as teachers, a space to listen deeply to children and lean into their ideas. Allison and Tony invite teachers to make space for math in unexpected places and give children the opportunity to make connections between stories, their lives, and the world around them.
Throughout the book, Allison and Tony bring readers back to the big ideas behind mathematizing children’s literature, which are outlined in the chart below.
Which idea resonates most with you? And which picture book might you try mathematizing with your students?
In celebration of the release of Mathematizing Children’s Literature, we’re sharing a downloadable PDF of the Commitments for Teaching and Learning Through Mathematizing Read-Alouds and the Open Notice and Wonder Planning Template. You can read more about Mathematizing Children’s Literature, including a free preview from the book, on our website.
Until next time, may your Monday be mathematically marvelous!