“Nothing sticks in your head better than a story. Stories can express the most complex ideas in the most digestible ways.”
Mathematicians have used storytelling for centuries to engage their audiences and as a means for understanding math concepts. Likewise, educators have long known that sharing stories with math concepts integrated into them engages students and makes math meaningful. Math Storytelling Day is celebrated on September 25 and highlights the importance of including the ancient art of storytelling in math instruction, encouraging educators and parents to recognize and observe the everyday uses of math by using stories to make concepts relatable to all.
This recent TeachersFirst blog post by Dr. Ruth Okoye shares the many instructional benefits of including storytelling in the classroom. She also discusses the many reasons for using stories to assist instruction and the research that identifies the four types of story-based education.
Storytelling began with visual representations and drawings, then moved on to oral retellings. Stories passed through generations in many ways, including songs, chants, and poetry. After a while, storytelling evolved into a written form, and now we share stories in many ways, often using digital resources.
A visit to the TeachersFirst Edge digital storytelling category offers a look at the many free digital tools available for creating and sharing stories, many of which are perfect for creating math stories as part of Math Storytelling Day (or any other day!).
Writing and sharing digital books using Book Creator (reviewed here) is a great way to create interactive stories with images, audio, videos, and much more. Use templates to get started, or build books with the easy-to-use tools found on the site. This book, 13 Math Projects for Book Creator, has several ideas for creating books that include math stories.
Podcasting is a modern method of telling stories. Adults and children both love the flexibility and convenience of listening to podcasts anywhere. Create podcasts using Anchor (reviewed here) or Buzzsprout (reviewed here)—both offer tools that make it easy to record and share podcasts. Ask students to create weekly podcasts sharing math activities and tips from the week. For Math Storytelling Day, make a podcast where students tell how they overcame frustration with a math concept or share story problems they wrote.
Video projects are easy to create with online tools. Adobe Spark Video Maker (reviewed here) provides users options to customize videos with templates, upload videos and images, and add music to the background. In addition, the Adobe Education Exchange shares many different video project ideas for math and other content areas.
Comic strips are an excellent tool for creating stories through images. Canva Comic Strip Templates (reviewed here) offer many different options for creating vibrant comics. Use these ideas from Calvin and Hobbes to introduce students to the concept of comics before they start their work.
Social media is a popular method of communicating with peers for many students. Popped (reviewed here) brings a social media feel to story writing and planning. Popped offers a storyboard option for planning a project, then includes a script tool that allows you to tell a story through texting.
Infographics tell stories through facts and data—perfect for math storytelling projects. Canva Infographic Maker (reviewed here) makes it easy to design appealing infographics using templates or starting from a blank page. For example, create an infographic to tell the story of a dollar bill as it travels throughout the world over a specific period of time, use data and graphics to share the story of the students in your class, or create a picture story that tells a student’s journey with a problem-solving activity.
Encourage your students to learn the “rules” for storytelling by sharing this 13-video playlist created by Pixar Studios and Bloop Animation. The playlist shares an insider look at how animations come to life using realistic characters, emotions, and challenges.
Storytelling is an excellent way to engage students in learning by making the content interesting and meaningful. Consider incorporating some or all of these digital tools into your math activities as part of Math Storytelling Day.