Visualizing Math Stories

Two Sessions at NSTA 2013

I’ve been hard at work on the work-in-progress. And, the work is hard. I’m wrestling text and images and graphics into place, staring down a deadline. In the last two days, I’ve made really good progress. There’s nothing like having Richard available to produce the graphics I need when I need them. I wish he were my full-time office companion.

After two long days, I need to let some things settle a bit so I have time for a quick blog post. I was in San Antonio last weekend for the National Science Teachers Association annual convention.

Sarah at NSTA13

I was one of nine authors (Terry Jennings (Gopher to the Rescue), Darcy Pattison (Desert Baths), Elizabeth Rusch (The Mighty Mars Rover), Melissa Stewart (Under the Snow), Catherine Thimmesh (Team Moon), Peggy Thomas (Farmer George Plants a Nation), and Sallie Wolf (The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound) who participated in a workshop titled: “Integrating Science and Literacy: A Journey, Not a Destination.” Each of us was paired with a professor of education. My partner was Dr. Amy Broemmel from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She helped me share the educational materials I’ve developed for Wolfsnail and Growing Patterns with four groups of teachers who rotated through our table. She took these photographs.

the backstoriesIn my second session, “The Power of Scientists’ Stories in Teaching NGSS Methods and Practices,” I teamed up with Dr. Kristin Rearden, who also teachers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Andy Boyles, science editor at Highlights.

Once again, it was my job to share ideas with teachers for using my books in classrooms to meet the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

teaching looking at snail on move book

I led the group in making a Fibonacci Folding Book, and talked about the Fibonacci Puzzle, the Wolfsnail On The Move book, and the instant book.

Kristin Rearden

Here is Kristin talking about bringing pinecones into the classroom to have students look for the Fibonacci sequence in the spirals on the bottom.

three presentersWe had lunch after our session to talk about what we might do for future conferences. Presenting at national conferences is always a wonderful experience because it brings me into dialogue with the people who use my books in classrooms and libraries with kids. I always learn things, and I always have fun.

Check out a new blog called Perfect Pairings: Linking Science and Literacy written by Kristin and Amy. You’ll find great trade picture books to use in your classrooms.

Visualizing Math Stories at NCTM12

A little less than a month ago, I presented at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference in Philadelphia. Along with Beth West, the International Baccalaureate coordinator at Davis Magnet IB Elementary School, I taught a workshop on using photographs to illustrate math stories.
beth and sarah at nctm12Regular readers of the blog will have been following our efforts to pilot this work at Davis this Spring. Read about it here. And here.

We had a great group of teachers at our session. We also had help from Andy Boyles, my editor at Boyds Mills Press (and Highlights). He took many of these pictures, and kept the slideshow(s) going while Beth and I alternated with teaching.

group work during sessionworking on stickiesdiscussionteachers reviewing sample booksreviewing kids books

Using Digital Photography to Illustrate Math Stories

I’ve been so busy with students I haven’t had much time to blog. We are in the final stage of our bookmaking, and the books look great. The third graders did a terrific job!

six books on desk

Students created stories in the broad categories of patterns and measurement. We had six groups of students. Four groups had four students each, and two groups had three students each. The groups worked together to brainstorm, write, storyboard, and take photographs.

After an initial visit, during which I talked about my Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature (read about it here), Beth West worked with the students to talk about what all math stories need. Together, she and the students developed a checklist. The group writing was a challenging part of this project. In order to facilitate the process, Beth and I worked with each group for about an hour — to help integrate disparate drafts and press for coherence in the math methods being deployed.

s writing

We spent the next full school day, working individually with groups to storyboard the photographs and then take them.

s and f talking about storyboard

After the photographs were taken, we asked the groups to self-select for four tasks: chartist (to create any chart needed for an illustration on good paper), folder (to make the instant book out of the good paper), assembler (to order, trim, and glue photographs into the book), and scribe (to write the final text into the book). So, on our final two work days, we worked with groups according to their tasks. All six folders made their books at the same time. All the chartists made charts at the same time, etc.

d making chart

m doing chartf foldingcutting

g making a bookt assemblingj assemblingk taking s through booka gluingk pressingb helping select text for pagesa and t writing final textt writingt explaining text choicesj writing final textb helping jmrs L enjoying the booksThis final picture is of the classroom teacher, Mrs. Lieb. She has been very patient with Beth and me as we invaded her classroom. Here she is enjoying reading one of the books for the first time. Thank you, Mrs. Lieb.

Patty Crosby took all but two of the photographs in this post. She also had the task of capturing the whole project on video. Thank you, Mom!

Thank you, also, Beth.

My Sample Math Story

I learned a long time ago that anytime I planned to do a project with students, I’d better try it first myself.
sample book knitting
So, today, I’m sharing my attempt at a math story illustrated with digital photographs. This is my current project with third grade students at Davis Elementary School. (Read this previous post for background.) Arguably, I’ve done this before. My Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature is a model text for this lesson.

My co-teacher, Beth West, and I aren’t asking the groups of third graders to write and illustrate a 32-page picture book, though. We’re asking them to write and illustrate an 8-page math story problem. The broad topics we asked them to write on were: patterns and measurement.

Beth created two useful documents to help students with this project: a graphic organizer and a checklist. I wrote a story titled Toby Knits a Blanket. In it, Toby wants to use a growing pattern to make a red, white, and blue baby blanket. The seeds for his growing pattern are 4 and 1.

inside pages model math bookYou can see how I filled in the graphic organizer.

graphic organizerThen, I used an instant book made from a sheet of manilla paper to create a storyboard. I used it to match the photographs with the text.

storyboardI spent about an hour last week meeting with one of the third grade groups. Beth met with another group at the same time and their classroom teacher, Mrs. Lieb, had charge of the rest of the class. The group I worked with is writing a story about trying to find a library book in a library where the cataloging has gone crazy, but in a patterned kind of way. Beth’s group was writing about predicting which student might win the most classroom incentive prizes over a designated time period — based on a pattern established in the first few days of the competition.

I go back tomorrow to work with a third group. We have six groups in all, and we are eager to get started on the photography part of the project.

lego dudes as models for third grade classesI dug these lego figures out of my boys’ containers so I could use them as models for my other story — involving measurement. These lego folks represent a classroom of students who are going to eat pudding at a party.

Photo Math

My second school-based project this month involves teaching third graders to use digital photography to illustrate math stories. I began by reading Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature in each class, and then I talked about my process — from idea to publication. I showed them early (and awful) drafts, described my breakthrough on layout, my complete re-write, and the photography.

Sarah Campbell school visit

As noted in my previous post, I am working with Beth West, IB Coordinator at Davis Magnet School, to develop a lesson plan for a presentation we are giving at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in Philadelphia in April. Two books that have helped us a lot was we’ve developed our unit are Math is Language Too: Talking and Writing in the Mathematics Classroom and New Visions for Linking Literature and Mathematics by David J. Whitin and Phyllis Whitin.

The Davis third graders will work in groups to make photo-illustrated books about patterns or measurement. Our primary model texts are: Growing Patterns and For Good Measure by Ken Robbins.

We will ask our students to write regularly in their math journals about the project. Beth and I are very interested in seeing how the students make sense of the pattern and measurement concepts and the book-making process. I will write regular updates here to let you know how the process is going.