Reading about Mathematics in Stories, the Media, and Literature
Too often, we hear people say, "I am a word person" or "I am a numbers person" as though words and numbers, verbal and quantitative skills, are somehow opposite, incompatible ways of looking at the world. Reading about mathematics in stories, newspaper and magazine articles, and literature counters this fragmented world view. It also helps "humanize" mathematics, tying it to people, their actions, and the world they live in.
There is, of course, a world of difference between the math stories in this book and traditional word or story problems. Traditional problems are written in the abstruse, vague language of traditional mathematics texts—an arcane mixture of words and numbers without context or a meaningful beginning-middle-ending structure. Our stories have plots, characters, settings, and motivations. They may be open-ended, encouraging students to continue the story telling, or close-ended, with a problem to be solved, but they are written to be read as well as computed.
Readings from newspapers and magazines mix mathematical content with issues that impact or help interpret the world around us. How to read the financial pages, what weather graphs and forecasts mean, how to interpret statistics and charts—all involve the development of both reading and math skills and encourage students to develop those skills holistically as a part of learning about the world.
Similarly, reading about mathematics in literature need be neither artificial nor contrived. It is no accident that some of our greatest mathematicians were also great authors. When students read and talk about Abbott's Romance of the Flatland Square or even Russell's limericks, they can see that mathematical concepts have a place in philosophy and humor. When they read excerpts from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, they will see that a mathematician can write creatively, using mathematical concepts without resorting to formulae and equations.
© ______ 2001, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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