Those “a-ha!” moments in teaching, and especially in teaching Mathematics, are the stuff that inspires us and drives us as educators. All too often, however, those moments arrive few and far between.
Telling a story to illustrate a point or bring an idea to life in the human imagination and thus create those “a-ha!” moments is nothing new and good teachers do it readily and frequently. The process of teaching young children to count, for example, has always been ornamented by narrative songs, rhymes and poems which emphasise the patterns inherent in number sequences. Nevertheless, constructing a tale as a metaphor for a mathematical idea is an undervalued strategy, often overlooked in our lesson planners and curriculum programming documents.
The following simple animation by Todd Nesloney is a terrific example of how storytelling can illustrate mathematical understanding. “Place Value Story” uses the metaphor of a families and houses on a street in a small town to demonstrate the systematic framework within which the decimal number system is organised. Used in Middle to Upper Primary classes, this small clip can be a great introduction to Place Value for students early in your teaching year.