Make room for math in the library

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Recommended activities and resources to help develop math and library skills.

Mathematics has the reputation of being a subject mastered by few and feared by many. But the library can be a space where all students feel comfortable engaging in mathematics, says Meera Garud, teacher and school library coordinator for the Library and Information Science program. University of Hawaii at Mānoa. For several years, while conducting his master’s research, Garud explored the teaching of mathematics in school libraries.

“Overall, I think a lot of elementary educators might be uncomfortable with math,” she says. “Mathematics is part of the whole curriculum, and it is important for a school librarian to be aware of trends in mathematics education so that he can figure out how to help teachers practice these new approaches. “

Before becoming a librarian and a teacher, Garud had been an education analyst and spent much of her time studying datasets. This helped her see a natural overlap between teaching math and library information.

“I’ve seen the connection between math awareness and the issues librarians tackle, which is critical thinking. “

To help school librarians better support their students in math, Garud researched and compiled a resource site—Highlighting math book listings, statistics and data visualization activities, lesson plans based on common core state standards, and more.

College Librarian Amanda Jones strives to provide support to every teacher in every subject at Live Oak Middle School in Watson, LA. But when it comes to math, she needs to think a little more about the structure and scope of her activities.

“I don’t have a background in math,” she says. “But if I didn’t do math classes, I would be leaving out a whole population of teachers on campus. “

[Read: Check Out the Math: One Elementary School’s Library-Based Math Program]

When collaborating with school math teachers, many expressed the need for a way for students to review concepts they learned in class with the support and guidance of an educator. Working with math teachers took the pressure off, says Jones, who was able to focus better on activities that reinforce math principles during library time. She adapted an activity that she had used successfully in other classes: EDU games in small groups, where students have to solve problems to crack the codes of a locked box. Combining math with library teaching, she asks students to browse the library’s Destiny online catalog to retrieve Dewey Decimal call numbers for specific books. After completing the ratings on a word problem worksheet, students must add, subtract, multiply, or divide the numbers to get out of the distribution box. The activity gets students to combine library skills and math:

“It’s a win-win because I meet my standards and we meet the standards of math teachers,” Jones says.

Breakout EDU also offers preloaded lessons that cover fundamental mathematical concepts, such as exponents, Pythagorean Theorem, and probability. At Glacier Point Middle School in Fresno, Calif., Teacher librarian Tommy Martinez uses these activities in Breakout EDU to introduce key terms and topics that will then be covered in class.

“Players are challenged to open various locks using their problem-solving skills, critical thinking strategies, collaboration and creativity to accomplish assigned tasks,” he says.

[Read: 10 Podcasts About Math for K-12 Students]

Martinez enjoys using these types of “game-based” digital programs as a way to deliver meaningful lessons that may differ from traditional classroom approaches, he says. It also relies on Minecraft Education Edition for spatial and visual learning. The program offers math courses with built-in learning objectives, guiding questions and performance expectations. Since students are often already familiar with Minecraft as a play space, they are able to quickly grasp learning goals, he says. Martinez even found that these gaming platforms and activities help reach more learners who are reluctant to engage in math.

“In math education, it’s important to help students develop a mathematical mindset and the willingness to try and fail,” Garud explains. “The iterative process has been incorporated into math education so that children feel comfortable trying to solve problems with the methods they suggest, but with this learning comes an explanation of their thinking. . And librarians are good at facilitating problem-solving conversations.


Lauren J. Young is a New York-based science journalist.


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