Opinion
Education Opinion

Once Upon a Math Problem: Stories and Learning

By Robert E. Slavin — May 24, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Once upon a time, there was a red-headed fourth grader named Ned. Ned was bored in school, and he didn’t get good grades. His mom was mad at him, his teacher pleaded with him, and Ned wanted to please them, but he just couldn’t get interested enough in school to put in enough effort to really succeed.

I’ll come back to red-headed Ned in a moment, but stop for a moment and ask yourself: Aren’t you interested in Ned? Isn’t focusing on a particular student, even if he’s fictional, a lot more interesting than my usual blogs that begin with dilemma of policy and practice?

Kids (like adults) love stories. They live in a social world, where talking about each other, other friends and family, teachers, rock stars, and movie stars is a full-time activity. Every creator of TV or movie content knows this, of course, because effective storytelling is their stock in trade.

How can schools take advantage of children’s interest in stories? Cooperative learning has been proven to help, because it engages students’ own social worlds with their learning.

With the support of Old Dominion University’s federal Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) scale up award, Success for All is now experimenting with adding stories to teachers’ instruction and cooperative learning activities. We’ve created brief videos with puppets, appealing characters, and animations to supplement teaching. We have evidence that this improves learning in reading and are studying a similar strategy in math in England. Brief video vignettes are shown on interactive whiteboards at designated points in teachers’ lessons.

Watching students and teachers using these embedded videos is exciting. Kids resonate to the videos and teachers use them as a point of reference in their lessons. We believe that this particular approach in math is making a difference, but we are continuing to study the method to be sure. In the meantime, it is clear that it certainly is engaging the kids, modeling cooperative learning and problem solving, and adding the magic of storytelling to math instruction.

So aren’t you wondering what happened to Ned? Luckily, Ned’s teacher adopted a program that uses embedded videos and research proven cooperative learning, and Ned is now excited about school, engaged with his peers, and feeling successful. If you’re like most kids, you’ll now remember the story of red-headed Ned a lot longer than you’ll remember the rest of this blog. There has to be a way to use stories in just this way to help all the Neds out there who are more likely to learn if we embed learning in stories.

Editor’s Note: Robert Slavin is Chairman of the Board of the Success for All Foundation

For the latest on evidence-based education, follow me on twitter:
@RobertSlavin

The opinions expressed in Sputnik are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP