“Connecting math with literature” is the hottest trend at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics convention, reports Math and Text.
What we’re talking about when we say “math and literature connection” is mixing math with stories in some way. That’s it. And connection is always a scary word for me too. Connecting math with anything can be a way to teach math by allusion — a very attractice alternative for those who would like to avoid teaching math altogether.
There’s no evidence math ‘n lit works better than teaching straight math. The idea has been around for more than 10 years but little research has been done on effectiveness.
Although teachers are using the Interactive Mathematics Program (what we call “classical knowledge”), they will also develop mathematics curriculum based on the generative themes (key social contradictions experienced in people’s lives) expressed by students and community members alike (“community knowledge”). (We include in community knowledge students’ language and culture as well.) At the same time, the school’s (mathematics) curricula will provide students opportunities to read and write the world (develop sociopolitical consciousness and a sense of social agency). We refer to the latter as “critical knowledge.” A key question is: how does one connect and synthesize all three knowledge bases-building on community knowledge so that students develop both critical and classical knowledge-while fully honoring and respecting each, to develop liberatory mathematics education in an urban Latino/a school given the current high-stakes accountability regimes and larger political climate?
In the latest Simpsons’ episode “Girls Just Want To Have Sums,” Springfield Elementary is split into a girls’ school, where math is replaced by self-esteem celebrations, and a boys’ school where real math is taught, amidst brutality.