Storytelling for Mathematics Learning and Engagement

This project will collect and curate digital stories of diverse mathematicians sharing stories of their learning within and beyond schools. These short videos will become part of a more extensive digital database of mathematics stories that will be aligned with K-8 mathematics topics and then materials will be developed for teachers to use. The project team will explore the use of mathematics storytelling on K-8 teacher and student mathematics learning and engagement.

Full Description: 

Mathematics education in the United States has long been challenged by three key issues this project seeks to address: (a) narrow conceptions of mathematics as a discipline (b) the lack of racially/ethnically diverse role models for mathematics in terms of representation in the public imagination, media, and schools; and (c) a paucity of resources for instruction to harness students' early interest and engagement in mathematics across racial and gender groups. One promising way to expose teachers and students to a variety of images and diversity of models of mathematics is to include images of diverse people telling their stories about their doing and knowing of mathematics. Although storytelling is a natural part of human activity and is used extensively in other elementary school subjects like social studies and language arts, it is not usually found in elementary mathematics. As part of this three-year project, the project team will collect and curate digital stories of diverse mathematicians sharing stories of their learning within and beyond schools. These short videos will become part of a more extensive digital database of mathematics stories that will be aligned with K-8 mathematics topics and then materials will be developed for teachers to use. Throughout this work, the project team will explore the use of mathematics storytelling on K-8 teacher and student mathematics learning and engagement.

This project responds to calls for improved equity and access to rich, rigorous math: to contribute to understanding a more equitable K-12 pedagogy; to disrupt racial inequities in math (and STEM, more broadly) through culturally responsive and inclusive instructional practice; and to enhance teachers' instructional practice. The first phase of the work will involve collecting and curating a set of digital stories told by mathematicians. Then, through two cycles of design and piloting, the project team will work with participating teachers and students to finalize the design of the videos and associated instructional materials. A sample of pilot teachers will be purposefully selected to account for diversity in region, school population, and experience level of teachers. The research team will also design grade-level appropriate research instruments, collect surveys, and conduct interviews to investigate both teachers' and students' conceptions of mathematics, their conceptions of who "belongs" in mathematics, and teachers' instructional practice with the storytelling materials themselves. Their analysis will draw on quantitative and qualitative research methods. For example, they will use narrative inquiry to examine teachers' and students' experiences with the videos. Using the research findings, the project will make available samples of teachers' pedagogical repertoires related to these videos and demonstrate how storytelling can be used as an effective mechanism for mathematics teaching and learning. Products from this project will include a digital database and supporting instructional materials for teachers, school leaders, and professional developers to use. The dissemination of this research will contribute to building models for mathematics education that serve to deepen understanding of mathematics of teachers and students, as well as simultaneously empowering students of all backgrounds, but especially underserved students, to activate and pursue their interests in mathematics.

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