"I've found throughout my teaching career that students are my best teachers, that the more I understand how children think and reason, the better I'm able to find ways to help them learn, " author Marilyn Burns told Education World. "I believe that we can't teach what we don't understand, and we can't teach well what we don't enjoy. I think that children's literature offers a wonderful vehicle for helping teachers teach math well."
In Books by Marilyn Burns, Burns uses traditional and original literature to address mathematical concepts. Her efforts show students that those subjects, like most classroom topics, are interrelated.
"Combining math and literature in classroom activities is a way for teachers to invite children into the world of math, " stated Burns. "Reading books that weave mathematical ideas into engaging stories helps dispel the myth that math is dry, unimaginative, and inaccessible. Children's books can not only generate interest in math but also provide contexts that help bring meaning to abstract concepts. Using children's literature is a win-win - for children and for teachers."
CHILDREN'S LITERATURE OPENS DOORS TO MATHEMATICS
An educator who began teaching secondary mathematics in 1962, Burns describes the start of her writing career as a "fluke." A friend asked Burns whether she would be interested in writing a book about math for what became the Brown Paper School series. She did so, creating The I Hate Mathematics! Book, published in 1975. That publication jump-started her parallel career. Burns has since written about a dozen books for children and the same number for teachers. Through offering workshops for other educators, she developed her love for teaching younger students, an experience she found delightful in a different way.
"From presenting many workshops to teachers, I realized that many elementary teachers, particularly teachers of young children, aren't comfortable with mathematics, " Burns explained. "For many, their own learning of mathematics was difficult and often unpleasant, and they took only what was minimally required." She added that when math becomes an elective, more than 50 percent of high school students elect not to study it any longer.
"Teachers who aren't comfortable with math typically prefer teaching reading and language arts, drawn to the many beautifully illustrated children's books available and how they spark children's interest and imaginations, " continued Burns. "I began creating math curriculum materials that involve literature to show teachers how to connect their interest in children's literature with helping children experience the wonder and delight of mathematics."
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