During a Buddies4Math tutoring session last year, I was reading a math problem aloud: “You buy a bag of popcorn with 425 pieces of popcorn inside, but you trip on your shoelace and spill 263 pieces! How many pieces of popcorn are left?”
A student raised his hand and said, “Who counts every piece of popcorn in a bag?”
That’s a fantastic question.
After that session, I started thinking about how the problem could have been modified to make more sense—using a fraction, maybe, like “⅓ of the bag” instead of individual pieces, and claiming that the nutrition label said there were 400 pieces in a bag? At the end of the semester, when the tutors were brainstorming ways to improve Buddies4Math’s curriculum, I asked if there was a clearer way to help students see how math applies to real life, and the Picture Book Project is what resulted.
When we write picture books, we start with a math topic, such as fractions or multiplication, and think of real-world applications of that skill, then write a story involving that application. In addition to illustrating math’s usefulness, we also aim to help students practice reading, so that one tutoring session doesn’t have to be spent jumping between a book and a bunch of unrelated, abstract math problems. Hopefully, when our picture books are used in tutoring sessions next year, they’ll help students recognize the importance of math.
Math, reading comprehension, graphics, and a great storyline – a perfect mix to make learning math more fun, exciting, and interesting.
When I was in elementary school, math class was filled with worksheets and while it did help to continuously practice math skills and formulas, it wasn’t the most engaging method of teaching math concepts. The most difficult problems for me were the word problems and drawing out the problems helped a lot with visualization. Through the Picture Book Project, we help kids visualize word problems through graphics that depict the math problem while being relevant to the storyline.
The Picture Book Project nestles word problems in exciting stories that also let students practice their reading. We can help them practice their math skills all while helping them practice their reading skills and making it all more engaging with storylines, plots, and graphics.
I believe that math can be fun and not just a chore to suffer through each day during class. For me, personally, the process of learning math was long and hard, characterized by endless pages of practice problems that seemed to just drone on and on. I didn’t have fun, I was unengaged, and most importantly, I didn’t learn as much as I could have with material I actually enjoyed.
At Buddies4Math, I want to make the process of learning math better than it was for me. Writing and reading picture books is a fun way to introduce math into an activity that many enjoy while teaching valuable problems solving and reading comprehension skills.
I hope that the picture books and other material I have created this summer will help many students improve their mathematical knowledge and abilities.
My mission for making picture books with Buddies4Math has been to make learning math just a bit more enjoyable. I remember when I was in elementary school and I had trouble learning math and reading because the material was uninteresting and unengaging. With these books, learning math isn’t just solving problems from a practice worksheet that your teacher half-heartedly assigns. It’s an exciting exploration with math through the medium of writing, imparting students with math concepts through memorable journeys.