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Lesson Plan

Draw a Math Story: From the Concrete to the Symbolic

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Draw a Math Story: From the Concrete to the Symbolic

Grades 1 – 2
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 40-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Renee Goularte

Renee Goularte

Magalia, California


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Students identify key mathematical vocabulary heard in read-alouds of math-oriented stories. The teacher then models math story writing by soliciting characters, setting, and plot from students, then drawing a series of images depicting students' story and paying special attention to the objects that increase or decrease. Students retell the story as the teacher writes their words under the pictures. When the story is complete, the teacher highlights the math vocabulary used in the story and helps students to write an equation to represent what happened. Students then work in small groups to create their own math stories using the process the teacher modeled. Each group draws a series of pictures that depict adding more or taking away objects; they then write a correlating story to go with the pictures they’ve drawn. Finally, students share their stories aloud and write equations to symbolize the adding and subtracting written into the stories.

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Math Read-aloud Books: Use the books from this list to familiarize students with the genre and build their math vocabulary.

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NCTE and IRA call for children to use reading, writing, speaking, and listening for a variety of purposes. These skills are not limited to the Language Arts block, but are essential tools for all areas of the curriculum. Similarly, communication as a mathematics tool is considered an essential standard by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Phyllis and David Whitin write: "Writing and talking are ways that learners can make their mathematical thinking visible. Both writing and talking are tools for collaboration, discovery, and reflection." (2). Effective mathematics problem solving often depends on understanding of key mathematical terms. This is especially true in solving story problems, which can be difficult even for students who are very proficient with mathematical procedures. Linking art, stories, and math concepts can help students construct meaning and improve mathematics problem solving.

Further Reading

Whitin, Phyllis, and David Whitin. 2000. Math Is Language Too: Talking and Writing in the Mathematics Classroom. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 2000. Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

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