Stories and Story Shells

To round off the Japanese food and Bento box theme, why not a bit of origami. Have I mentioned before that I love origami?

A logical model would be the Chopstick Rest. You can see this beautifully illustrated and explained by Mr. H at Mathing…

As well as making models, I might tell the story of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Using storytelling in the classroom is an important strategy backed up by research. In their paper: “Using storytelling to teach mathematics concepts“, Goral and Gnadinger summarize as follows:

“Storytelling is a powerful tool that can bring rich, vibrant, meaningful and lasting images to children. Furthermore, stories have a unique and powerful way of connecting people. According to Kurtz and Ketcham (1994), “Of all the devices available to us, stories are the surest way of touching the human spirit” (p. 17). In storytelling, there is a coming together, a removal of boundaries so to speak, and a total concentration and absorption of the spoken word. Students need multiple methods to help them understand abstract mathematics concepts. Because communication is one of NCTM’s key standards, it is important to practice the art of communication in a number of ways. Listening to a story, and participating in a problem solving activity related to the story helps reinforce this standard. Using stories is yet another pedagogical tool to help our students connect to the mathematics they need to learn”.

Also read:  “The Privileged Status of Story” by Daniel T. Willingham.

Another very important contribution to this premise, was made in the publication: “The Mathematics Curriculum and Teaching Program” by Charles Lovitt & Doug Clarke, 1988. Chapter 10, Vol 2, devotes a full chapter to Story-shell frameworks.

Some of my favourite lessons are here, including: Licorice Factory, King Kaid of India, Anno’s mysterious multiplying jar.

Lovitt & Clarke define three approaches:

1. The story which is devised specifically for curriculum purposes (eg. Licorice Factory)

2. The historical situation (eg. King Kaid of India)

3. Literature, including traditional tales (eg. Anno’s mysterious multiplying jar)


Preparing my Bento Box worksheet for this unit got me thinking about my “story shell” which I have revised to:

“At Letizia’s Restaurant, Shepparton, the manager and owner Mario has a big problem. The lacquer on his Japanese style Bento Boxes is flaking off. The customers are not happy. Mario is afraid that the Food Inspectors will close him down. Can you help Mario out, by designing a new Bento Box?

Your design will need to be prepared quickly and then sent to the manufacturer. Mario’s wants a 7 compartment box, that uses at least 4 different shapes. The area of the 7 compartments must equal 400 cm2.

OK, get going, Mario is depending on YOU”!

Ko’s Journey is an online example of Maths and Storytelling. Check it out and let me know what you think!


About webmaths

I have been teaching Mathematics in Victorian secondary schools for 30 years. I use the www to make my maths lessons better. I hope this blog will give other teachers some ideas to try in their own classes.
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